Christmas Traditions in Denmark by International Coordinator at University College Northern Denmark, Anne Lassen Zakaria
Danes love Christmas! Already in October we start to feel the Christmas spirits approaching. Maybe because of the darker days, where we need indoor activities and a lot of candle lights. However, for the outsider, we may seem a bit over the edge, as one international students to Denmark mentioned:
“Decades and centuries of repetition have turned Danish Christmas and New Year into pure logic – to the Danes.
A Danish Christmas is comprised of blinking lights, heavy presents, excessive drinking, plenty of challenges for vegetarians and some cultural paradoxes.
Main ingredients are meat and snaps (Danish for akvavit, ed.). The latter is a foul tasting transparent Danish liquor made of potatoes and seasoned with dill or (yuk!) caraway” (University Post Copenhagen; 2017).
Although, the above observations pretty much captures the Danish Christmas, I also think that the traditions in each family varies. In Denmark we celebrate Christmas the 24th, and in my own case we usually start in the afternoon by going to church, while the duck is getting ready in the oven. While Christmas dinner is prepared, we put all the presents under the decorated Christmas Tree, and around 7 pm, we have a huge dinner consisting of duck, waldorf salad, various kinds of potatoes, red fermented cabbage, wine. Dessert is always Ris-a-la-mande, which is a rice budding topped with cherry sauce (yummy and heavy). The dessert follows a specific tradition, where a whole almond is put into the bowl of dessert, stirred by another person, and served by a third. The person who gets the almond keeps it secret, until the whole dessert is finished, and then reveals it, and receives the “almond present”. After dinner, and while the dishes are cleared, the Christmas tree is lit, and then we hold hands and walk around the tree while singing Christmas carols. This is very beautiful! At the end of the singing, the presents are handed out by the youngest member of the family. We take turns to open presents. We end the night by having some cookies and drinks and sweets. A very joyful evening. The 25th December is normally very quiet in Denmark. Most people relax at home or go for a walk in the woods.