Scandinavians keep traditions close to heart, especially those related to Christmas. There are variations from family to family and you probably know some of them from your own country, but the Scandinavian Christmas traditions are very fun, easy to follow and include into your own Christmas routine. Here is what I’ve learned from my Danish friends and spending Christmas with my husband’s danish family.
The Advent calendar
Advent calendars are also popular in UK and USA but here they are very important, especially for kids. For each day of December, the kids get to open a gift(if they behave!) that can be something like a chocolate or as many Scandinavians prefer, small thoughtful gifts, often handmade or crafted.
The calendar candle
This is one of my favourites as I am such a lover of candles in the cold seasons. The tradition is that from the first of December you have to buy a calendar candle, which is a candle with 24 marks on it. You light it once a day from December 1st to the 24th, and allowed it to burn down one mark each day until Christmas Eve. I usually keep mine in the window which I’ve decorated very Christmassy.
I usually like being on time when it comes to presents, but Scandinavians are way beyond me, they are months earlier. I know my mother in law have had her Christmas gifts ready and wrapped since November, for sure. But if you are not following the Scandinavian way and struggling to find something last minute, here are few gift suggestions for you :
The traditional Christmas dinner
Danish people spend their Christmas Eve on the 24th with family, that’s their traditional Christmas dinner as well. The traditional Danish Christmas Eve dinner usually one of 2 courses: An oven roasted duck or goose with sugar glazed potatoes, brown sauce and pickled red cabbage or pork belly with the same sides. The discussions can go high on which course is the correct one and some families opt to serve both.
And the moment everyone awaits is the traditional desert which is a hot rice pudding or as it’s known here Ris a l’amande (a French traditional rice pudding mixed with whipped cream, vanilla, almonds and cherry sauce). The fun part about it is that the host usually hides an almond in the large bowl of dessert and the person that finds it, gets a secret present. Tradition dictates that whoever finds the almond keeps it hidden, so that everyone eats pudding until they are about to burst in an attempt to win the price.
Singing and dancing around the tree
After everyone finished eating they gather around the tree to sing and dance to their national Christmas songs. It goes on for up to 10 or 15 carols and I find it really fun and very hyggeligt as they say in Danish. The Danish Christmas tree is decorated in a Scandinavian way with white globes and white lights. What I find most “different” is the fact that they decorate the tree with small danish flags and often put a lot of small candles on it and while dancing around the tree they will light them. I don’t suggest you do this at home, in fact I know in some countries it’s even illegal, but here they managed to do it and I haven’t heard of any problems so far. They also keep buckets of water close by.
The gifting process
As if lighting up candles in a dry tree was not different enough, the way the Christmas gifts are offered is different too. First of all I must explain, that here even if you wish for a certain thing for Christmas, it’s far from a given that you’ll get it. Usually instead of gifting just one big item, they give more but smaller gifts that the giver thinks you might like. Gifts are often distributed in such a way that one person gets to pick a gift from under the tree with someone else’s name on and gives it to them. Then the person to which the gift was, unwraps it while everyone watches, and then they go on to pick the next gift with someone else’s name on it. This goes on for a really long time until the kids get very tired or the gifts are over.
After stuffing yourself with food and enjoying the gifts, The Christmas evening usually ends with a small glass of hard liquor and a good walk outside in the cold. I find their traditions very different than what I grew up with but also fun and warm and I hope you do too.