The complete beginner’s guide to Christmas in Denmark

By |2016-10-12T23:36:20+00:00December 27th, 2014|Christmas, Denmark, Destination, Europe, Seasons|17 Comments

Danish Christmas

Danes love Christmas.

In fact, we like it so much that every day of December is celebrated with food, gifts and countless Christmas parties.

From the 1st of December, most of us have gift calendars consisting of 24 pieces of candy, one for each day before Christmas. And at night, our two big television channels show a Christmas series with 24 episodes; one for children and one for grown-ups.

I wanted to take a photo of my own Christmas calendar, but I ate it.  

CALENDAR CANDLE

Another important part of Christmas in Denmark is the calendar candle which is provided with 24 markings. We lit it every day at the breakfast table from December 1st.

Most families have an Advent wreath as well. It consists of four candles, each of which is lit every one of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Eve. The wreath is made from spruce twigs and decorated with spruce cones, white candles and red ribbons.

Danish Christmas

Danish Christmas

Christmas candle

SANTA LUCIA

On the 13th, we celebrate Santa Lucia, the Catholic Saint of Light. This day is celebrated with young girls processing and singing in schools, retirement homes, churches and hospitals. They wear white dresses and hold a candle in their hands. The front girl also wears a crown of candles on her head.

Danish Christmas

Photo by Bengt Nyman

ON CHRISTMAS EVE

I think the specific timing varies from family to family, but on the days leading up to the 24th, we decorate the tree with flags, baubles and a gold star at the top.

Many Danes go to church during the day on the 24th. It’s not because they’re religious; most just enjoy the tradition of singing Danish carols together in church.

Danish Christmas

Danish Christmas

The Danish Georg Jensen Christmas decoration

Danish Christmas

Danish Christmas

Elling church

Then at 4pm, every Danish child (and me) watch the Disney’s Christmas show. It’s been shown every Christmas Eve for as long as I remember and I love it every time. The show is a 45 minute collection of Disney clips with a surprise cartoon movie at the end.

Danish Christmas

My face when I didn’t get the almond for dinner

DANISH CHRISTMAS DINNER

If you ask me, dinner is the best thing about Christmas. I’m not a huge fan of Danish food in general, but our Christmas food….

It’s A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

Traditionally, dinner is served at 6pm and it takes days to prepare it. Most Danes eat roast duck with prunes served with red cabbage, boiled and sweet potatoes, beets and cranberry jam. Others eat roast goose or pork instead.

The desert is called risalamande which is cold rice pudding with whipped cream, sugar, vanilla and peeled chopped almonds. According to tradition, one whole almond is hidden in the bowl and the finder gets a present. The fun part is trying to find it and then hide it from everyone else so they keep eating to get it.

Danish Christmas

Danish Christmas

Danish Christmas

Danish Christmas

Danish Christmas

Danish Christmas

Danish Christmas

Danish Christmas

Risalamande with cherry sauce

Danish Christmas

Risalamande with caramel sauce

Danish Christmas

Naaja was one of the lucky finders

Danish Christmas

DANCING AROUND THE TREE

After dinner we move to the living room where my uncle reads the Christmas gospel from Luke 2; 1-20. After that, we dance around the Christmas tree while singing Christmas carols and hymns.

Danish Christmas

Danish Christmas

Danish Christmas

Danish Christmas

Mom plays the piano

TIME FOR PRESENTS!

After singing 4-5 Christmas songs, it’s time for unwrapping the gifts. In my family, a person is selected to hand over the presents one at a time and then everyone shows what they’ve gotten. Afterwards, we get sweets, fresh fruit and coffee.

Danish Christmas

Danish Christmas

Danish Christmas

Danish Christmas

Some got jewelry

Danish Christmas

Others got an indian head

Danish Christmas

Danish Christmas

Danish Christmas

True bromance

Danish Christmas

Danish Christmas

So, folks. That’s how we celebrate a traditional Christmas Eve in Denmark. I’d love to hear how you celebrate Christmas. Let’s talk in the comments!

Which Christmas traditions do you have in your country?

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17 Comments

  1. JONtotheworld December 28, 2014 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    Our big boss at the office (Country Manager) is a Danish. He is an expat in the Phillippines, and he is a fun-loving person so I have really very positive impression about Danish 🙂

    And the reason why he enjoyed the Christmas season in the Philippines is because we also have the same very special celebration of Christmas. We even start decorating our homes and playing Christmas songs as early as September. LOL!

    It’s good to know that Danish also LOVES Christmas. 🙂 thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Miriam December 29, 2014 at 1:02 am - Reply

      What a coincident, Jon! If you get the chance, say “glædelig jul” to him 🙂 It sounds like the Philippines are similar to Denmark. Do you celebrate Christmas on the 24th as well?

  2. Sherri October 24, 2015 at 1:52 am - Reply

    A long time ago, when I lived in Denmark, we made woven paper hearts to fill with sweets and hang on the tree. Cones, too. And wheat ornaments. Also, strands of the little Danish danebro. Do you still use real candles? I still have some of those decorations and put them on my tree here in the US every year!

    • Miriam October 24, 2015 at 11:15 pm - Reply

      Ah yes, we do that too. We still use real candles, but always keep a bucket of water next to the tree, though. It sounds exciting that you’ve once called Denmark home. Where did you live?

  3. Our Wanders December 4, 2015 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    Oh the food looks so delicious, it just attracted our eyes while reading this post. 😀

    We have very similar traditions to celebrate Christmas in Hungary – including the LOTS of food as well. 😀 But our traditional Christmas dinner is fishsoup, poppy seed pasta and beigli as dessert. And we are so ashamed that neither of us are huge fan of these Christmas meals, so we started to create new traditions in our family… 😀

    As for Santa Lucia we also have a tradition: baking small cakes and hiding coins inside some of them – it was fun to eat them up as kids and compete who will get money. 😀

    • Miriam December 11, 2015 at 7:32 pm - Reply

      Oh how fun 🙂 I love creating new traditions and see the small customs that each family have. They make Christmas such a special time. Are you guys spending Christmas in Budapest this year?

      • Our Wanders December 21, 2015 at 9:48 am - Reply

        Yes, we are spending Christmas in Budapest and currently busy working on preparing everything. We love it though, so no complaints. 😀
        But it’s almost completely sure that we won’t have a white Christmas this year… But definitely more Christmas like weather than our previous Christmas in San Diego. 😀
        Are you staying in Denmark for Christmas? Do you have any snow there?

        • Miriam December 22, 2015 at 9:47 am - Reply

          It’s the same up here in the North. Right now it’s 12 degrees outside and I’m missing the snow! We’ll be fine though as long as we still have the good traditional food 🙂 Merry Christmas.

          • Our Wanders December 22, 2015 at 10:39 am - Reply

            Haha, yes, good food and some family fun could compensate the lack of snow easily. 😀 Merry Christmas!

  4. Megan Indoe December 9, 2015 at 6:35 am - Reply

    I have only spent Christmas in Korea and Prague outside of home. Korea is a bit disappointing, but Prague was magical! We plan going to Europe after next year and hopefully will get to spend the holiday months there. Denmark looks like a great place to spend Christmas! The food looks amazing, thanks for sharing!

    • Miriam December 11, 2015 at 7:39 pm - Reply

      I can imagine that Christmas in Korea wasn’t as great. Since Christianity is mostly a Western religion, we celebrate it differently than Asians. For me, the perfect Christmas is European… with lots and lots of snow 🙂 I hope you’ll have a white and merry Christmas this year.

  5. Chris December 24, 2015 at 7:58 am - Reply

    Hi,
    Just came across your blog post on 24th December! I work for a Danish company but live in the UK. I most say that Christmas sounds much better in Denmark. Here in the UK Christmas is celebrated on the 25th. Most families don’t have many traditions but Christmas presents are usually opened on the morning of the 25th as Santa visits during the night. Christmas lunch is served early afternoon and is usually turkey.

    I might need to find myself in Denmark at this time next year! Hope you have a wonderful day.

    • Miriam December 25, 2015 at 1:20 am - Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Chris! Each Christmas tradition definitely has charm, but I like the Danish way better, too. Today (24th) is the big day, but we keep celebrating the following two days. Tomorrow and the day after is all about eating and spending time with family and loved ones. I hope your Christmas is what you hoped for.

      Hope to see you back here on the blog again.

  6. Faylinn July 12, 2016 at 7:02 pm - Reply

    This December, my sister and I are going to be flying to Denmark to spend the Christmas season with our distant cousins and so I am so excited about Santa Lucia. We will be arriving there on the 12th and so I really hope that we will be able to see the processions of young girls singing. However, who exactly is the Catholic Saint of Light and what does it have to do with Christmas?

    • Miriam July 12, 2016 at 9:51 pm - Reply

      Hi Faylinn, I hope you’ll enjoy Denmark. It’s magical during Christmas! If you’re in Copenhagen you can see the biggest Lucia processions in Tivoli and at the city hall square.

      Lucia was a female saint and martyr who is commemorated on Dec. 13th. She doesn’t really have anything to do with Christmas, but we celebrate her on this day. Oh, and you should try the lucia bread when you’re here.

  7. Charlene Entwistle December 21, 2017 at 10:14 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing, I live in england and I love finding out, how others celebrate Christmas

    • Miriam January 11, 2018 at 10:49 am - Reply

      Glad you liked it, Charlene. I bet Christmas is very different in the UK, you celebrate it on the 25th, right?

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