It is finally December!!! This means Christmas, family, friends, good times, presents and just being together. I am Danish and Christmas is always a very big deal in Denmark; it is probably our biggest and most important holiday. Personally, I think it is because it gets incredibly dark in the winter months and the Danes need something to light their spirits. Already in November it gets completely dark at 16h30 and it only gets worse after that. By Christmas Eve it gets dark at 15h!!
So, you see, they do need some (Christmas) lights to be able to see in the streets! My mother lives in the countryside and just the other day a friend visited her in the afternoon and when he left he asked to borrow her flash light to be able to find his house.
The real Christmas countdown starts on December first. When I was a child my mother prepared small presents for us, one for each day counting down to Christmas Eve. I intend to do the same for my boys this year. On the 13th we celebrate Santa Lucia, where kids dress up in white and walk around with candles and sing. This is a very fond memory I have from my childhood. I went to the European School and all the other sections still remember the Danish girls walking around singing to this day!
Somewhere in the middle of December we get a real Christmas tree and decorate it in a special way. Yes, there is a Danish way to decorate the Christmas tree. The colours must be red and white and some also add Danish flags. We hide candy in the cones for the children, which they are allowed to eat during Christmas Eve day.
The 24th is the sacred family day. The whole family gathers and there is cooking in the kitchen all day long. After dinner, when the presents which have magically appeared, we sing and dance hand in hand around the Christmas tree! During the final song, we run around the house in one big line. It is so much fun and I have very warm memories of my grandfather running around sillily making us wait even longer for our presents! Finally, we are done singing and the children get to pass out all the presents.
The night ends when all presents are opened and all bottles are empty. We all pass out extremely satiated from both food and presents! But Christmas isn’t over yet.
The infamous “Julefrokost” is a very big deal in Denmark, which translated as a Christmas Lunch. It is not really a lunch, but rather an entire day and night of eating and drinking. The menu is quite interchangeable and so are the drinks. During this event only beer and snaps are served. The snaps you may know from Germany is nothing compared to this one. You may know it as Akvavit and it can taste quite vile, but by the third one they go down quite easily! For me personally the snaps needs to be ice cold and downed while eating herring. Herring is a very important part of the Christmas Lunch menu and goes down beautifully with Akvavit. Every company, University and other institution will host a “julefrokost” for the entire staff. This is the night where it is accepted and even expected to let loose and live a little. This is where office affairs start and embarrassing stories are remembered throughout the year! This party is usually held in November or even January depending on the type of business or when exams are held, etc. and is usually held with family and friends on the 25th or 26th of December.
Christmas in my family would last until the 6th January, day of the 3 kings. This is where my mother would take down the tree and all the decorations. We lived in Luxembourg, so we didn’t have too much of a reason to keep the lights out longer than that, but I do believe that now as she lives in Denmark she keeps them out a lot longer.
The Danes have so many traditions around this holiday and each family also add on their own routines and customs, but the most important aspect of the entire season is to be together! This is so essential. In Denmark it is cold, dark and wet during these months and people need to come up with something to compensate. In a sense “hygge”, which is the Danish word for cosiness, is turned up a notch. And I believe the Danes are doing a great job! After all, it is not for nothing that they have been crowned the happiest nation so many times 😉
This year, I wish for you all to embrace your own traditions and spend lovely times with family, friends and loved ones. Embrace some HYGGE and just BE TOGETHER!
Merry Christmas everyone!!
Anne Louise Littlejohn – HealthyLux Passionate Contributor
HealthyLux December theme – Let’s hug