MERRY CHRISTMAS! Finally! Being Danish sometimes has its perks, one of them is today the 24th December. We Danes don’t have Christmas on the 25th but the 24th. Surprise! I don’t actually know why the Scandinavian countries celebrate Christmas on the 24th but it makes sense to me – obviously since it’s been that way my entire life. Tradition, rejoice! With my last Christmas blog post of the year I want to take you on a guided tour of a traditional Danish Christmas Eve. Be aware that different families have slightly different traditions. So, without further ado…
AFTERNOON AND DISNEY’S CHRISTMAS SHOW
When I was younger we used to go to church. Some of us still do but I dare say that it’s not really a tradition in my family anymore. It is in other families, though. Generally I think Christmas and Easter are probably the two only times a year where churches are full. Anyway, in my family we put on nice clothes and pop in around 15.00. We all bring something to the table and it is usually divided into who’s taking care of dinner, dessert, sweets for after, wine etc. It puts less stress on the individual both time- and money wise.
At 16.00 we watch Disney’s Christmas Show on TV. I’m pretty sure that it’s solely a Danish thing but I really love this tradition. What other families do in that regard I have no idea, but I refuse to believe that we’re the only family who always watches it. It’s basically an hour of put together clips from Micky Mouse and co., Snow White, Peter Pan, Cinderella, Bambi and others, and they’re created like Christmas greeting cards. The clips that are shown have either something to do with Christmas, snow, or just having a good time. In the end there is one or two surprises which usually are clips from upcoming Disney films. I suspect they have a clip this year from Frozen 2. My brother and I (he is 10 years older) always find ourselves mouthing along with the clips. They’re always the same and we’ve watched it every Christmas for our entire lives. It screams nostalgia and I love every second of it. I wonder what Mr English will think of it when he finally gets the chance to experience a Danish Christmas.
Once dinner is ready we all sit down to eat. When my niece and nephews were little we ate a bit early – around 18.00 – so that they wouldn’t get to bed too late, but now I think it’s pushed to around 19.00. For dinner it’s tradition to have roast duck with potatoes, caramelized potatoes, red cabbage, gravy and chips – and to avoid confusion that’s crisps for my UK audience. Sometimes there’s added a roast pork and perhaps a Danish typed sausage called medisterpølse. I cannot for the life of me remember if we – my family – only have roast duck or if we add either roast pork or medisterpølse. The reason is that I generally eat smaller portions and so I always only have duck with potatoes etc. Then I’m full.
After dinner there’s dessert. And the dessert comes with a game. Intrigued? The dessert is called Risalamande (or Ris à l’amande) and is basically cold rice pudding mixed with whipped cream, vanilla, and chopped almonds served with a warm cherry sauce. Sounds French, doesn’t it? Even when it’s pronounced it sounds French. It’s not. It’s very very Danish. If you’re confused I totally get it. It was invented in the late 1800s and back then French was kind of the it-language (besides Danish) just like English is the it-language now. The old Danes trying to be posh I guess. Anyway, it comes with a game. Besides the chopped almonds there is 1 whole almond hidden inside and a present for the one who gets it called a mandelgave, almond gift. I personally don’t like Risalamande. I never have but I always take a tiny portion to be polite. So it’s no wonder that I never got the almond and the present. Until last year. I didn’t even take a big portion but somehow I ended up with the almond for the first time in my life. It felt oddly satisfying.
WALKING AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE
After dinner we usually help each other clean up and out (and down and aside and…) and then we slowly move into the living room to the Christmas tree. We bring out the bags of presents and put them under the tree, others make coffee, tea etc. and bring out sweets. When eveything is ready we light the Christmas tree – live candles – and then we are ready to walk around the Christmas tree. Literally. In my family we have small books with Christmas carols I guess you could call them because we can’t remember the lyrics after verse 1. We hold each other’s hands so that we create a circle around the tree and then we agree on which song to sing. Usually we sing 3-4 songs before the final quick one – one where we actually end up running around the tree – and after that, when the pulse is high and some of us have broke a sweat, we’re ready for something to drink and some sweets while we open our presents. In some families I think all of the presents get distributed to their respective receivers but in my family we pick a present and watch the receiver open it. The receiver then has to pick out the next present and give it to the person who’s name is on the tag and so on until all of the presents have been opened. As you can imagine this take some time. All the while we talk, laugh, get excited over presents and overall have a wonderful time. Usually we don’t break up until midnight, sometimes even later, but when we do we slowly put our respective gifts in a bag and go home to sleep.
As a kid I remember waking up really early on the 25th so that I could play with my things. I think it suited my mom and dad perfectly as it meant that they could sleep in while I was occupied and happily playing in the living room downstairs. In that sense I don’t think the Danish and English typed Christmas are so different.
And that’s how we celebrate Christmas in Denmark. I hope you found it somewhat interesting. I don’t have much more to say other than keep an eye out for my final blog post of the year – otherwise known as the yearly wrap-up – where I list all of the highlights from 2019. Events, books, films, you name it. All there is to say now is:
What special Christmas traditions do you have in your home or country?
5 thoughts on “Experiencing my country through foreign eyes: A Danish Christmas”
This is a lovely post! I don’t know much about Danish culture, haven’t been to Denmark yet. 😀
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Really neat to hear about your Christmas traditions! I love that every family celebrates a little differently, especially the lighting of the tree! Thanks for sharing!
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Wow! Loved every word, how interesting! I like that you all sing and go around the tree at the end..how lovely. I am currently flying to Denmark so how appropriate haha
Thank you! It would seem the timing is impeccable, haha. I hope you enjoy your trip.
Thanks for stopping by!
Loved this Danish Xmas Story. Thank you for sharing.