A Danish Christmas

I’m so excited about being home for Christmas. I am back in the house where I grew up and me and the family had begun the Christmas preparation of decorating the house, baking and wrapping up the many presents that were already lying around waiting for us to rip that glittery Christmas paper off, when I came home the 17th. Christmas is one of my favourite times of year, even though I hate the cold and the dark of this season. For me, Christmas makes up for all of that and I have longed to get a break from uni and to go home to spend a traditional Christmas with my family.

Now, in Denmark there are some things you need in order to properly celebrate in true Danish fashion. When it comes to the food, you can’t have a Danish Christmas without eating huge amounts of treats such as Pepernødder (Peppar Nuts – a spicy, peppery biscuit). This also includes baking your own treats, usually Vaniliekranse, Brunkager and Havegrynskugler (Vanilla biscuits, Ginger Biscuits and small balls of oat & chocolate).

Children tend to fancy this more than adults but I still love eating Risengrød, a traditional Danish (or Scandinavian) rice pudding or porridge which is served warm and topped with cinnamon, sugar and a knob of butter. Yum! It is also absolutely necessary to eat Flæskesteg or pork roast sometime during December. My absolutely favourite part of eating flæskesteg is to dip the crispy pork crackling into the sauce.

There are a few variations but in my family we always eat duck roast for our Christmas Dinner but sometimes we also add goose, which is my personal favourite and flæskesteg or Medister (a spicy Christmas sausage).

Besides the food there are some other things you need to have in order to celebrate a proper Danish Christmas, like writing and receiving Christmas cards. I admit that I have often neglected this duty but this year I have managed to send 4 cards, which I’m rather proud of.

Another part of Christmas that I love is that we make our own decorations in Denmark. This usually involve creating a “flower” decoration around the advent candle but we also make our own tree ornaments. Usually we make braided paper hearts and paper cones that can be filled with treats and fold golden stars that we can hang on the tree.

All through December families gather around the television to watch a daily episode of a specially made Christmas mini-series in 24 parts. These mini-series are most often made for children but grown up series have been created too. They often feature Santa, Christmas elves and some kind of magic mystery that has to be solved before it becomes Christmas Eve.

At Christmas lunches a game of presents or “Pakkeleg” is often taking place. Everyone sit around the table and take their turn rolling a dice and every time someone gets a 6 they can take a present from a pile on the table. When all the presents have gone a new round begins where you can steal presents from each other until the time is up. This is so much fun in my family as we always fight over some present that end up being pretty weird and often rather useless, such as a present this year that turned out to be a toilet tube press.

And last but not least.You can’t have a Danish Christmas without having dinner on the evening of the 24th, accompanied by walking around the Christmas tree (whose small candles have been dangerously lit while we all try to avoid catching fire) while singing Christmas carols and then finally opening the presents before you collapse in a pile of discarded wrapping paper sometime after midnight. Oh yeh, and in my family we always end the night with a piece of Ryebread topped with the butcher’s best salami before we all head to bed.

Now, that is Christmas!

I’m off to celebrate New Year in the quiet and calm forests of Sweden. *