Glaedelig Jul


Before Christmas the streets and shops are elaborately decorated with greenery and the Danish symbol of Christmas - red and white paper hearts. Most people have small outdoor trees which they decorate with lights and hearts. Inside they will have red and white candles on the dinner table and there will be Christmas hearts everywhere. 'Kravlenisser' (Christmas figures), which are made of thick card, are also often placed around the house. Warm dough balls and Christmas cookies are served with glasses of glogg (mulled wine).

As in other Scandinavian countries, Denmark has also adopted the tradition of celebrating the Lucia Bride on 13 December. On this day there are a number of processions of young girls, each of them carrying a candle and singing the Lucia song. The procession is headed by the 'bride' who has candles in her hair. These days battery powered candles are usually used for safety!

Candles play a large part in the preparations for Christmas - with the Advent wreath, which has four candles to represent the four Sundays in Advent, or the Advent candle which has 24 numbers on it and is burned each day to countdown to Christmas.

Christmas itself is celebrated on the evening of 24 December. The indoor tree is put up during the day and is decorated with small paper cases filled with sweets, glass baubles, paper hearts, lights and Danish flags. This is often done by one or two people and kept secret from the rest of the family. Gifts are placed under the tree ready to be opened after dinner.

Before sitting down to dinner a bowl of porridge must be left out for the 'nisse' - a small elf like creature, who wears a red cap and is said to live in the attic. This will ensure peace and prosperity for the coming year.

Dinner will consist of roast pork, goose or beef and dessert is always rice pudding (Julgrot) which has an almond hidden in it. Whoever gets the almond is said to have good luck throughout the new year and will often receive a special gift of marzipan or chocolate.

After dinner everyone is allowed to see the tree, which will be ablaze with lights. Carols are sung and the gifts are handed out.

Gifts are said to have been brought by Jul Mander who arrives in a sleigh drawn by reindeer. He is helped by elves called 'Jul Nisse' who are said to live in the attics. Before sitting down to dinner a bowl of porridge and some milk is left out for Jul Nisse.

On Christmas Day people visit family and friends before returning for a large lunch for the whole family with a range of dishes - similar to the Swedish smorgasbord.