Christmas Traditions

Christmas Traditions

Christmas in Denmark is filled with traditions beginning with Advent and the countdown to Christmas. The Advent calendar or candle is a longstanding tradition.  The candle has 24 markings and is lit every day from December 1 to Christmas Day.  Children often have the job of blowing out the candle before it burns down to next date.

Other types of Advent calendars, also known as Christmas calendars, are especially loved by little ones.  These gift calendars are made of two pieces of cardboard. The top piece of cardboard has 24 doors which can be opened to reveal a picture or piece of chocolate.  Another variation of the calendar may contain a little gift for each day of Advent.

Another sign that the holiday season is near is the official launch of Carlsberg’s Christmas Beer, Tuborg Julebryg.   J-Dag (J for jul, Christmas in Danish) is the first Friday in November with the official release at 8:59 pm and that’s when the celebration begins.  Julebryg is dark golden in color with flavors of caramel, black current and licorice.  It has a strong taste and high alcohol content.  It’s only sold for about six weeks but it’s the fourth highest selling beer in Denmark.

Gløgg is a “hygge-friendly” beverage and especially enjoyable when shared with family and friends around the holidays and in winter sitting by the fire.  Gløgg is made with warmed red wine (or mead) mixed with brandy, dried fruit and spices.  At Christmas, it’s often accompanied by aebleskivers, Danish pancakes that are shaped like balls and cooked in a special pan.  They are often dusted with powder sugar and eaten with jam.

Throughout December outdoor Christmas markets are everywhere packed with stalls of homemade gifts and snacks.  Sweet treats enjoyed around Christmas include nuts, dried fruits, oranges, brændte mandler (sugarglazed almonds cooked in large open cauldrons in the streets), glazed apples on a stick, pancakes, æbleskiver, pebernødder, klejner, brunkager and other types of småkager (Danish cookies), gløgg and a variety of marzipan treats.

Shops and homes are decorated with colorful lights.  Christmas trees are adorned with homemade decorations such as woven hearts and paper cones filled with treats, Danish flag garland, straw ornaments and candles.  

According to folklore, mischievous elf-like creatures known as nisse make themselves known especially around Christmastime.  In the old days, nisse were protectors of a household or farmstead and helped farmers with small chores.  They were temperamental though and could cause trouble if angered.  To show respect and keep them in good spirits, the nisse were presented with a bowl of porridge with butter (Risengrød) on Christmas Eve. In modern times, nisse are still around– playing pranks and leaving small gifts for children during Advent. 

Christmas Eve is when Danes celebrate with families gathering for a traditional meal of roast pork (Flæsketeg), roast duck or goose served with caramelized potatoes and pickled red cabbage.  Dessert is Risalamande which is rice pudding with hot cherry sauce.  In the serving bowl is a peeled almond. Whoever finds the almond in their bowl receives a small almond gift.

After dinner, families gather around the Christmas tree, hold hands and dance around the tree singing traditional hymns and carols such as “Nu er det jul igen” (Now it is Yule again).   

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