Danish Christmas – Keeping Traditions Alive
How is a Danish Christmas different from an American Christmas? Every country has their own traditions that are cherished and make their country feel special in a world where American tradition tends to overpower. It is important to keep your countries traditions alive, especially if you don’t live there anymore, like my mom. It keeps that connection to your roots and makes everything feel a bit more hygge around the holiday. Yup I said it. Hygge.
America has decided to claim the Scandinavian term “hygge” and slap it on mugs and shirts trying to pass it off as their own. Unless you really grew up Scandinavian, the term “hygge” can kind of be misunderstood. It does not just mean to cozy up on a couch with your PSL, ugg boots and watch the hallmark channel. It is gathering together with family and friends. It means the flæskesteg (crown pork roast) on the table. It means all of the children choking down risalamande to try and get the almond even though they really don’t like it. It means all the adults drinking aquavit during Christmas lunch. It is not just being cozy, but rather a feeling or the atmosphere that is created.
Danes make the priority of spending time with family and making damn sure there is good food and conversation to be had. I mainly grew up with more Danish traditions for Christmas time than I feel American traditions. Here are some things that I remember being different.
We had an advent calendar,which I believe originally came from Germany. Mine was handmade by my Mormor with my name and it had little rings on it for a little present each day. I have now passed my calendar down to my mini and this is our first year using it with her. We incorporate the elf on the shelf with it too.
We had candles on the tree. I know…totally sounds like a fire hazard and I am pretty sure the insurance company is not going to be happy with you if you say you accidentally burnt your house to the ground because you just loved the hygge that came from lighting the Christmas tree candles. Nowadays we don’t light them, but they are just so pretty on the tree.
Anything and everything Georg Jensen. Anything in a Danish household around Christmas that is gold? Most likely Georg Jensen.
Risalamande was not something that you really enjoyed as much as a kid but would try to choke it down just so you could get the whole almond and get the present. It is a cold vanilla flavored rice pudding, topped with warm cherry sauce. Now, looking back, I have no idea why I didn’t care for it as a kid because it is delicious. Meh, it did take me 27 years before I tried my mom’s leverpostej (liver paste) and that is amazing too.
We opened presents on Christmas eve. All Danes open presents on Christmas eve instead of Christmas day like in America. Growing up, we did a variation where we were able to open a couple presents on Christmas Eve because by that time it was almost morning for our Danish family and it was a way to be connected. This follows the tradition that Christmas day is juledag where an absurd amount of food and booze is consumed over 3-4 hours with family and friends. The big dinner that most Americans have on Christmas day happens on Christmas Eve, which allows for the “lighter” lunch the next day. But let’s be honest, I don’t think Danes know how to make light meals ha.
We never did this growing up, but after dinner the family will light the candles and dance around the tree and sing songs. I don’t know how much this is really done nowadays but that was an older tradition.
If you want to have a “hygge” holiday, just remember that it is not a physical thing that you are doing but rather creating an environment that really embodies the holidays. Family and friends. Drinking and laughing. Christmas movies and Gløgg.
Now the rest of the post may be a bit photo heavy. I wanted to share some photos from my mom’s Danish Christmas Party that she has each year and be able to show you the food and drink.