Danish Christmas Eve
And then, after all the Christmas lunches, the hundreds of Christmas cards you have sent and received, the many, many gløgg (and the many dead brain cells from all the drinks) at Christmas markets then finally, finally comes Christmas Eve.
As in many other countries, a Danish Christmas is mainly a family party. In keeping with Scandinavian tradition, the main event takes place on the evening before the holy day, on Christmas Eve – 24th of December.
In the afternoon of the 24th, people usually go to church. Since this is the only day of the year when most Danes attend a service, the churches are packed. Several church services are held throughout the day.
At six o’clock pm they gather to start the feast.
In many families there are big debates about how and when to serve the rice pudding (risengrød). The main discussion revolves around whether or not it should be sweetened only a little and then served before the main course, as per the old tradition, or whether the rice pudding should have chopped almonds added and turned into the more modern dessert version, ris à l’amande.
Regardless of which rice pudding ends up being served, it will contain a whole almond that is hidden inside. This dish is eaten with great excitement and concentration because whoever has the whole almond is awarded a small present. The suspense will increase if the finder waits until the whole table has finished before giving away that he/she is the winner or if two almonds are hidden.
The main dish for the Christmas meal is roast duck, often stuffed with prunes and apples. Glazed potatoes and red cabbage are served as side dishes. The dishes will be sent around the table many, many times and I sometimes have the feeling that there is the hidden agenda to increase the suspense and lengthen the waiting time.
After the meal, the party moves on to the festively-decorated Christmas tree. Danish Christmas decoration consists of interwoven Christmas hearts filled with the seasonal Christmas cookies mentioned in a previous section. Bird-shaped decorations are supposed to bring good fortune and it is also common to hang garlands with small Danish flags around the Christmas tree.
The tree must be centred in the middle of the room so that the family has enough space to dance around it. Everyone holds hands, walks around the tree and sings traditional Christmas carols.
Once the repertoir is exhausted (which can take some time), the presents are finally distributed.
Find out more about the Danish traditions for the Christmas time
- Æbleskiver and gløgg
- Christmas lunches
- Christmas markets
- Christmas cards
- Wish lists
- Gift exchange practice
- End-of season sales
- New Year's Eve
- Three Kings day
Remember to check also the resource section for your life in Denmark to find important information which will help you to settle down faster and make more out of your stay.
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