Even though Denmark might sound like a boring place to spend Christmas, the local traditions are quite interesting. I decided that over the advent week I will collect traditions from the places where I lived and where I traveled. So let’s start with Christmas traditions in Denmark.
I would say that first Christmas tradition in Denmark starts in early November. First Friday in November is also known as a J-dag. Jul dag if you will. It is a day when Christmas beer comes to market. And this thing is massive. At 20.59 the bars are going crazy, everyone wants at least one pint. Later on, there are people from the brewery all around the country, going to bars and offering free beer and merchandise. It is one of the busiest days of the year.
From about that time, it is common that Danish companies are going for “Jule frokost”. And even though Frokost in Danish means lunch, this is more like a dinner. So what is on traditional Danish Christmas dinner? The tradition is that there are fishes, such as herring or white fish, some kind of salats, at least two kinds of cabbages, ham, and baked pork.
The desert is Danish Christmas traditions for itself. The Danish Christmas dessert is called Ris a la mande. And it is rice cooked in milk with sugar and vanilla sticks. Before you eat it, you would mix it with whipped cream and hacked almonds and put cherry sauce on top. The traditional thing about this is that one of the almonds that people would put in the desert wouldn’t be cut. A person who gets this almond has rights to open their gifts first.
The saints are coming
While lunches continue, there are several other Christmas traditions in Denmark. The quite noticeable one is the one, when st. Nicolas arrives. That tradition is usually taking place at around 5th or 6th of December. People would gather around the water source (say river or sea) while St.Nicolaus would arrive. He is dressed as Santa (he is sort of like Santa) and he brings Christmas to Denmark.
About a week later there are traditional Lucia lights. St. Lucia was a saint of light and so from night 12th on 13th, little girls would dress in white dresses and have a wreath of candles on their head while singing Christmas songs. That comes from the time when Saint Lucia put this wreath on her head to keep her hands free while feeding poor Christians.
Julehygge and Christmas day
As we talk before about hygge, there is something special about Julehygge. Not that special, but if you would go out with your friends, you wouldn’t buy just coffee of hot chocolate. You would buy glogg – also known as mulled wine and something called aebleskiver. Aebleskiver are pancakes made in the shape of a cube. They used to have apples in them (that is why aeble) but not anymore. Unfortunately.
Then we are getting to Christmas day. Regarding a Christmas tree – people don’t have a special preference regarding kind of tree of when to decorate it. But the tradition is that there must be candles on the tree. Proper one. If you really have to choose the chain light, the light needs to be white. On top of the tree, there is always a star, never an angel. Those are all the rules on the topic of the Christmas tree. Sounds strict but it really is not.
On the Christmas day (which in Denmark is 24th) everyone starts to eat around the time of sundown. Which in Denmark would be around 3.30pm, so quite early. But there is a lot of food, people usually do 3 courses, so they are not completely overeaten. After dinner, you can finally open the presents. After that Danes would dance around the Christmas tree.
Regarding presents – there is an interesting fact. A lot of Danes would tell each other how much do they want to spend on a gift for the other person. The main reason for it is to prevent embarrassment when one person buy something super expensive while the other one just something small.
New year hop
We are finishing with the last sort of Christmas traditions in Denmark. New years eve. Everyone can buy their own firework and do it themselves during New years eve.
Other popular tradition – and my favorite is to hop from the chair on the midnight. It usually means to start fresh in the new year. This is a nice tradition if you live on the top floor of your building, not so much if you live on the first floor.
That would wrap it up, there are all the popular Christmas traditions in Denmark. Next week I’m going to continue with my own country Czech. Hope you like it.