Denmark – A European Christmas Story

Some people in Denmark give and receive Advent presents on the four Sundays of Advent. Most people have a Kalenderlys (an Advent calendar-candle) or a Pakkekalender (gift calendar), which contains 24 small gifts for the children, one for each day until Christmas Eve.

Julekalender (christmas calendar) is a television series with 24 episodes, one shown each day until Christmas Eve. The first Julekalender was shown in 1962. The theme of the Julekalender typically involves someone trying to ruin Christmas and the main characters saving it.

Every year a set of Christmas stamps/stickers/seals called julemærket are sold in December to help raise money for charity. A normal postage stamp is used as well but the julemærket stickers make the post look Christmassy.

Christmas parties are held from 1st November to 24th December. Making cakes and biscuits is popular in the time before Christmas. Gingerbread or vanilla cookies are popular.

Most people go to church on Christmas Eve at about 4pm to hear the Christmas sermon. It is also a tradition to give animals a treat on Christmas Eve, so people go for a walk in the park or woods and give food to the animals and birds.

The main Christmas meal is eaten between 6pm and 8pm and includes roast duck, goose or pork, served with boiled and sweet potatoes, red cabbage, beetroot and cranberry jam/sauce. Most families have a ‘ris á la mande’ (a type of rice pudding made with milk, rice, vanilla, almonds and whipped cream) for dessert. All but one of the almonds are chopped into pieces. The person who finds the whole almond gets a present called a Mandelgave (almond present). Traditionally the little present was a marzipan pig but today is often sweets or a toy.

After the meal the lights on the Christmas tree are lit, people might dance around the tree and sing carols and open their presents.

In Denmark, children believe that their presents are brought by the ‘Julemanden’ (which means ‘Christmas Man’ or ‘Yule Man’). He looks similar to Santa Claus and travels with a sleigh and reindeer. He lives in Greenland, likes rice pudding and is helped by ‘nisser’ which are like elves.

In Danish Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Glædelig Jul’. 

A personal story:

By Jamil Ilyas

Q1. What do you have for Christmas dinner?

Christmas eve we normally have an open market in the centre with large Christmas tree and we go there as a family and then go home late ready for Christmas day where we make roast lamb legs, roast chicken, chips for the kids. Grilled and roasted vegetables and potatoes and lots of Danish sweets and we just eat all day. People of different faith would have roasted pork, roasted duck, and mulled wine as part of their Christmas dinner.

Q2. What is your fondest memories of Christmas?

Christmas day is a time for family as everyone is off work. We do lunch with the family and then do a nice long walk with the whole family (generally it is snowing so we have a snowball fight and I love that time of the year)

Q3. What types of presents do you get from friends and family?

For presents we normally give more to the children which is generally toys, books, and Danish Sweets.

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