Christmas in Denmark
At Christmas, in Denmark, the streets come to life with lights, decorations, markets, foods, ice skating and Danish hygge. Hygge is a word describing an atmosphere of coziness or intimate warmth. You can feel the joy and excitement of Christmas as Danes celebrate with decorated trees, caroling and endless eating.
There is a day in December Danish families will designate as Cut and Paste Day. On Cut and Paste Day, the entire family, from the youngest to the oldest, will sit down together and make homemade Christmas ornaments and decorations. These often include small Danish flags, red and white woven paper heart baskets, or small cornucopias filled with special treats. When finished, the ornaments are hung on the tree, or around the house to aid in the hygge Christmas atmosphere.
The Christmas season in Denmark also brings lots of fun events, such as open air ice skating, the world-famous Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market, and holiday shopping!
It is tradition among the Danes to finalize the shopping and wrapping on December 23rd and to receive your presents on Christmas Eve. Long ago in Denmark, it was common for rich Danes to gift fancy plates full of fruit and biscuits to their servants. These plates were the nicest and best kind of decorated china. And this is how the collectors plate tradition got its start.
After the special Juleaften (Christmas Eve) mass or church service, the family will gather around an elaborately decorated table. The Christmas Eve meal generally begins with rice pudding that has a “magic” almond inside. Whoever finds this special whole almond will receive a prize. Then they may have goose or roast duck, red cabbage, and browned potatoes followed by pastries and cakes for dessert. Christmas Day will be filled with visiting from house to house amongst family and friends.
Christmas cookies are a big deal here, and families will begin to bake and decorate Danish cookies and gingerbread early in the month of December. It is said that if a visitor leaves your home in Denmark without being fed, he will take with him the Christmas spirit. And though it may just be legend, no one wants to test it and find out. Everyone shares their holiday food, and especially the Christmas cookies, generously as they visit back and forth (source).
Children have а great time enjoying thе mischievous pranks оf аn elf or gnome called Nisse, one of the main Christmas characters in Denmark. Thе children will leave Nisse а bowl оf rice pudding аt night ѕо thаt hе keeps hіѕ mischief tо а minimum. Nisse will often play jokes оn the adults аnd leave thе children thеіr Christmas gifts. “According to tradition, the gnomes secretly live in houses and act as their guardian. If treated well, they protect children and animals from evil and misfortune, and they also help with chores and farm work. However, they are known to have a temper, especially when they are offended. If they are insulted, they usually play tricks and can kill livestock. (source)” Perhaps this Danish legend is where the idea for the modern day Elf on the Shelf comes from?
Side note: If you are looking for an alternative to The Elf on the Shelf this year, I invite you to check out my new book Melk, the Christmas Monkey. Melk will bring short Bible lessons and fun family activities to your home during the Advent season to teach your kids about God, and how he loves us based on WHO HE is, not on what we do or do not do. Check it out, and download a free preview lesson HERE. The book releases November 1, 2014.
Have you been to Denmark at Christmas? What else can you tell us about their Holiday Traditions?
- Danish Christmas Recipes
- Watch a video of how to make Danish pudding
- Woven Heart Paper Basket Craft – instructions and free template
- Putting out the Pudding for Nisse – coloring page
- Yuletide in Denmark – free PDF ebook
- The Elf on the Shelf– entertaining with daily mischief
- Melk, the Christmas Monkey – teaching kids about God during Advent (2 free lessons)
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