It is only days away before Christmas and despite having yourself busy with the number of julefrokost engagements here and there, there is no valid excuse to not enjoy this year´s Danish Christmas celebration.
Danes put Christmas on top of their priority list of festivities every year, making it colourful, traditional and legitimately Christmas.
Now, what are some of the fun things you must expect to see and experience on a Danish Christmas celebration? I have made a list based on my very own experience and also by asking some Danes I know.
Things to Know About Danish Christmas
1. They know how to make a fun countdown. They have candle-calendar (kalender-lys) which they light from the first of December until the 24th, each day consuming the dates printed on it. Kids have a gift-calendar (pakkekalendar) which are gifts hanging by the stairs or somewhere in the house with dates on it. The kids get to open one gift every day until the 24th. There is also a traditonal series in local TV channel called Julekalender with episodes being aired each day until the 24th. So, yeah, lots of kalender going on.
2. Danes have a traditional advent wreath which consists of evergreen wreath with four candles on top, cones with glitters or paint on them, and other decorations.
3. Julefrokost is their version of Christmas party. Usually starting as early as November, julefrokost is a traditional Danish lunch that involves Snaps (hard liquor); food ranging from meat, fish, salad and dessert; games, music and they say… sex. It´s the time of the year where everyone only gets to eat, drink and have fun.
4. They have colorful Christmas markets or bazaars all over the city. In my experience, the key areas to spot this year include Kongens Nytorv, Nyhavn Harbour, HC Anderesen´s Christmas market by Axeltorv, Tivoli Gardens, the Christmas market in Christiania, and the one in Kødbyen. There’s a lot of things to try in there from food to prospective gifts, and, if you don´t get to see anything interesting, you can always switch to another market nearby.
5. They love Christmas trees. Traditionally speaking, Danish families, specially those with kids, dance and sing around the Christmas tree on the Christmas eve. Danish homes, public and private establishments, and tourists places have their own Christmas trees to show their excitement for the season. Other trees are so big you wouldn’t help not taking photos.
6. It’s gifts season, really. Danes are most generous during Christmas, they love sending out gifts. It doesn´t matter how big or small it is, you will receive gifts from them that you’ll be too happy to give back. The fun thing that I noted myself after my first Danish Christmas experience is that the gifts usually comes with the receipt. The logic is that in the event you don’t like the gift, say you want a different color or size or whatever, you can always send it back for a remedy. Neat!
7. You would want to find the whole Almond nut on your Ris ala Mande. Ris ala Mande is a Danish dessert, which is a rice porridge with milk, almonds and whipped cream, served during Christmas. The fun starts when it´s time to eat and everyone hopes to get the lone whole almond in the porridge. Whoever finds it gets the mandelgave, a present, which could be anything fun or exciting.
8. Æbleskriver and Danish Christmas cookies. Gingerbread, pebbernødder, and vanilla butter cookies are always present during Christmas in Danish houses and establishments. Æblerskriver or apple dumplings is a popular snack or dessert typically served with jams and powdered sugar.
9. You´ll see angels parading on the street singing to St. Lucia. Angelic young girls parade on the street dressed in white singing to St. Lucia to celebrate St. Lucy´s Day, on December 13.
10. Christmas Sales. There is a lot of sales everywhere that buying gifts would be effortless. You can opt for normal gifts that you can buy in shops along Strøget on up to 50% tilbud or discount or you can try the special ones being sold in the Christmas Markets all over the city.
11. Yes, they have their own Santa Claus called Julemanden. Except for the fact that he lives in Greenland, likes to eat risengrød (rice pudding with cinnamon, sugar and butter), and has nisser or elves.
12. You can choose whoever you want it too. You can always mix friends and family on Christmas as everyone is always welcome to the celebration.
I hope these are enough to give you a view of what to expect on your first ever Danish Christmas experience. One last note though: if you don’t know the lyrics to their Christmas song, don´t be embarrassed. It’s just fine. Eat a lot, dance, and enjoy. Glædelig jul or Merry Christmas!