Sunday, January 2, 2011

The traditional Danish Christmas

Yeah I know it's a bit late to post this, but my friend Carina actually encouraged me to write a post about it between Christmas and New Year's. However I lost track of time and now it's already 2011 and I forgot to write about our traditions surrounding Christmas Eve and especially the food we consume during the holidays (in disturbing quantities). I'll make up for my forgetfulness right now and wish you all Happy New Year.

As mentioned before, we Danes celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December. This tradition dates back to the ancient Nordic calender, where the day of Jesus' birth begins at sunset on the 24th of December. December 23rd also marks the start of Christmas celebrations in Denmark. This date has no biblical meaning but still some families have special traditions on this day as well. Most families use this day "Lillejuleaften" as it is called here in Denmark, to prepare for the big celebration on Christmas Eve. The Christmas tree is often decorated this evening, some eat rice porridge and make extra for the Danish rice pudding with almonds, which is served as dessert on Christmas Eve with hot or cold cherry sauce and others roast the duck this evening, to get a head start on food for the Christmas dinner.

At my house the 23rd of December was spent at my grandparents house starting with a Christmas lunch, where my grandmother had put all kinds of delicious Christmas dishes on the table. We started of with roasted black pudding, then we had 2 kinds of pickled herring and roasted pickled herring, home made rolled seasoned meat, brawn, Danish pork sausage and tiny Danish meat balls. we finished off with cheese and crackers and lemon mousse. After this feast we went out into my grandfathers plantation to pick out and bring home our Christmas tree. We walked all the way and it was loads of fun. When we got back, the tree was put on the trailer and my grandmother had prepared afternoon tea and coffee with Christmas cookies and cake. We got home in the late afternoon and my mother prepared the rice porridge for dinner and dessert the next day. My father put the Christmas tree on a pedestal and left the tree in the living room to be decorated when the children had gone to bed. The decorated tree would be a surprise for us the following morning. 

The celebration of Christmas and what we do on the 24th of December varies from family to family and it often reflects what we grew up with at home as a child.

As I got older I helped my mother preparing the Christmas dinner and we often went to church in the afternoon. When we got home, we gathered around the television to watch Walt Disney's Christmas Show "From All of Us to All of You" and then we watched the last episode of the Christmas calender shows we had been following from the 1st of December. The table was set beautifully and the last food preparations were made. Our Christmas dinner menu consists of:

Roast duck
Roast pork loin with crackling
Red cabbage
Boiled potatoes
Sugar glazed potatoes
Gravy made from the duck 
Danish rice pudding with almonds and cherry sauce

When we eat the rice pudding we gamble for an "almond gift". A whole almond is hidden in the pudding and the one that gets this whole almond wins this little gift. Traditionally it was a little pig made from marzipan but today it can be everything from chocolate to good quality coffee or something like that.
When we finished eating, the table is cleared and we help put the Christmas tree in the middle of the living room and put the presents underneath. At our house my father light the candles on the tree as the rest of the family sits in the kitchen listening to the Christmas Gospel read out loud. When my father has finished, he turns off the rest of the light in the living room and brings us in there to see the beautiful tree. We dance around the tree hand in hand singing Christmas carols and enjoying the cosiness of it all. Then the time for opening presents arrives. We place ourselves around the living room and the youngest in the family hand out the presents. We each take turn opening one gift at a time and the Christmas candy is brought out, then we enjoy our presents and have a little candy before going to bed having had the longest day of anticipation and joy.

After spending Christmas with my husband and his family I appreciate the traditions I have from home much more and I know that when it is my turn to host Christmas Eve, these are the traditions I will hold onto and carry on.


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