It’s only a few days left until Christmas Eve, and you’re probably still in the process of finalizing the Christmas meal menu you’ll be serving your family and guests. Christmas is one of the most critical times of the year in Denmark. For Danes, Christmas is a time of feasting with family and friends, and the traditional Christmas dishes are an integral part of the celebrations. As an expat, Christmas is my favorite holiday. The long festivity, gift-giving culture, and delicious food that the Danes make on Christmas Eve all contribute to the festive atmosphere. But what is the traditional Danish Christmas meal?
What do Danes eat during Christmas?
Did I say Danes love feasting and gathering during the Christmas holiday? The festivity doesn’t really start in December but in November as workplaces and clubs already set the time for the annual meeting for julefrokost or Christmas lunches. Julefrokost normally has most of the traditional danish Christmas food. But it is mostly dominated by hearty meals of open-faced sandwiches, cold cuts of meat, pickles, and other appetizers.
Traditionally, the Danish Christmas meal usually starts with a variety of cold appetizers such as smoked eel, herring, and various pickled fish. These are often served with rye bread and cold cuts of meat. The main course of the Christmas meal is usually flæskesteg roasted pork with cracklings or roasted duck with apples, prunes and gravy, served with normal and/or caramelized potatoes (brunede kartofler), brown sauce, and red cabbage. Other traditional sides include boiled potatoes with parsley, boiled carrots, and sauerkraut. In recent years, some families have started serving roast beef or turkey as the main course. This is usually served with a selection of sauces, such as mushroom or cranberry sauce.
To be clear, not all families follow the traditional set of meals such as this. For instance, in our family, we usually skip the appetizers and head straight to the main course on Christmas eve as it is already heavy including the desserts. For dessert, the traditional Danish Christmas sweets are risalamande (rice pudding) and æbleskiver (apple dumplings). These are usually served with warm cherry sauce or jam.
After the hearty course and dessert, the fun doesn’t stop as traditional danish Christmas cookies are served with coffee or tea. As Danish families gather around the Christmas tree to share stories and songs or open gifts, they usually enjoy a selection of Christmas cookies, cakes, and pastries. The most popular Christmas cookies are vaniljakranser (vanilla butter cookies), pebernødder (pepper nut cookies), klejner, and brunkager (spiced cookies).
On Christmas Day, the traditional Danish breakfast consists of rye bread, various cold cuts of meat, and cheeses. During the day, Danes often enjoy Christmas cake, cookies, and other sweet treats.
Finally, on New Year’s Eve, Danes enjoy a special dinner called “nytårsaften”. This meal is usually served with champagne and includes a variety of dishes such as smoked salmon, herring, and pork roast.
Overall, the traditional Danish Christmas dinner is a feast of delicious, rich, and hearty dishes. From cold appetizers to sweet treats, Danish cuisine is sure to fill your belly with joy during this special time of year.