Danish Christmas traditions: Denmark is the country of charming family Christmas traditions. A quaint or old fashioned Christmas is the term I would like to use, but not in a negative sense. I think the Danes capture something in their Christmas celebrations that has been nearly lost in other parts of the world.
Time spent together especially around the holidays seems to be treasured in Denmark. The spirit of A Child’s life at Christmas Time is captured in Danish Christmas traditions.
Baking Christmas cookies is a family tradition that begins weeks before Christmas during the Advent season. Whether it is rolling, cutting, stirring, decorating, or nibbling; everyone takes part.
Gathering around the table with Grandma and Grandpa, and Mom and Dad to decorate the burne kager (gingerbread cookies) is a tradition the youngest children especially enjoy. The dough was made several weeks earlier and stored in the refrigerator so that it’s flavor would meld properly. Danish butter cookies and peppernoder (peppernuts) are also favorites.
Plates of Christmas cookies are shared and passed between family and friends. It is said that if a visitor leaves your home in Denmark without being fed, he will carry away the Christmas spirit. So, of course, that just isn’t allowed. Food is shared liberally with everyone, especially Christmas cookies.
Danes love to decorate their homes for Christmas. Advent wreaths with their candles, Nissers (little gnome like elves), evergreen boughs, mistletoe, and holly are placed throughout the house. If a family lives in a rural area, the whole family sets out with the sled to find and cut their perfect juletrae (Christmas tree).
Before that happens though, a special Danish Christmas tradition occurs. A day is set apart. This day is called cut and paste day. Everyone, including the teenagers, sit down together and spend the day making and decorating homemade Christmas ornaments.
Much like Americans string popcorn for their tree, Danish people make and use strings of small red and white Danish flags. Red and white checked heart shaped baskets and cornucopias filled with treats are favored ornaments.
Lille Juleaften (Little Christmas Eve), December 23 rd., can be the busiest day of the year. Last minute shopping is done. Presents are wrapped and the house is given a final straightening. The baking is finished for Christmas eve dinner. The children set out sheathes of grain for the birds and special treats for the animals.
According to Danish Christmas tradition, the main celebration of Christmas is done on Christmas Eve, Juleaften. Although Mother has been busy for hours, the four o’clock church bells signal the beginning of the celebration. The relatives have all arrived, and together they attend a candlelight church service. The Christmas feast starts after the service. A bowl of rice porridge is set out for the Julenisse (mischievous Christmas gnomes) so that they will relent from their pranks. Dinner begins when a beautifully browned goose is place upon the table. It is served with small browned potatoes that have been caramelized with brown sugar. Red cabbage is also a traditional dish. Ris A L’Amande (rice pudding )served with cherry sauce is often the dessert. Father closes the meal by reading the Christmas story from the Bible.
Candles, resting on the ends of the Christmas tree branches, are lit. Always, they are real candles. Every member of the family joins hands and they “dance” around the Christmas tree. As they walk, they sing carols. Julemand (the Danish Santa), comes and distributes his gifts. More Christmas cookies and marzipan are enjoyed as the night settles.Christmas day and Second Christmas day, December 26th, are spent visiting extended family and friends.
Danish Christmas Traditions Recipe
Ris A L’Amande
3 2/3 c milk is brought to a boil
1 cup of white rice and 1/2 cup of fine sugar is added.
Cook until the rice is tender. Then Cool.
2/3 cup of chopped sliced almonds
1/2 cup of cream sherry
1 tsp vanilla
Whip then stir in gently
1 1/3 cup of whipping cream
Top with cherry sauce and serve
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