How can I not write about Christmas in December? Having grown up partly in Denmark, I enjoy a variety of Danish Christmas traditions that I want to share with you.
Chocolate Advent calendars are only the beginning of the countdown to Christmas Eve. Households and sometimes classrooms have candles marked with the numbers 1 through 24, and we burn one portion each day. Since moving to the U.S., Dad has often painted our candle with the numbers and various decorations.
As if that's not enough, each of the four advent Sundays, we light the corresponding number of candles on a wreath and sing a traditional verse about it. In case you didn't know, candle consumption per capita is higher in Denmark than anywhere else, and natural is best--not scented candles!
Finally, we have our 24-episode Christmas shows. Seems like Christmas always needs saving, whether it's because Santa's wife has been kidnapped, children have stopped feeling the spirit, or a nisse has accidentally magicked Christmas out of history. And the songs--oh, the songs in these shows! They make up a wonderful part of the repertoire of Danish Christmas music.
If you want a mouthful of Christmas, try some flat brunkager or nut-sized pebernoedder. They're chock full of Christmas spices: cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and more. You also can't go wrong with gingerbread hearts covered with chocolate. Clementines belong to this season, too, and there are a plethora of special goodies you can get from the bakery at this time of year.
Now for the big meal. On Christmas Eve, dinner begins with rice pudding with a hidden blanched almond. Whoever is lucky enough to get the almond in their bowl wins the almond present, something that has been wrapped up beforehand. After the pudding, the meal continues with duck, goose, or roast pork along with caramelized potatoes, gravy, and more.
The Christmas tree gets a prominent spot in the center of the living room, because after Christmas Eve dinner, it's time to dance around the tree and sing. We all join hands and walk (or skip, depending on youthfulness and exuberance) in a circle around the tree, singing songs until we've had enough and it's time to open the presents beneath it.
Especially traditional among the Christmas tree decorations are the knitted paper hearts and kræmmerhus cones, which I believe used to be mostly in the red and white colors of the Danish flag but are now made in a variety of colors and patterns. There's nothing more Christmassy or hyggeligt than sitting down sometime during December to make Christmas hearts, kræmmerhuse, origami stars, and garlands.
Most Danes belong to the Danish Lutheran folk church. They may not attend church during the year, but they go for Christmas. When my mom was little, she wished for talk of Jesus at home and looked forward to Christmas as a time when her family would sing about Him and there would be nativity scenes and a Christmas service.
There's a special Spirit that comes with singing and speaking of Jesus which doesn't come any other way, and all the lights and treats and music are so much more meaningful when we remember Him.
May you have a merry Christmas, Danish or otherwise!