Weird Danish Christmas traditions

Each culture has, of course its own holiday traditions. While some are family oriented or mostly formal, in other cultures, holidays have their own ”color”. Danish Christmas is no exception as some may say that some of the customs do make sense, but only for Danes. 🙂
So take a scroll down Denmark’s Christmas lane an see if you can identify yourself with the Danish Christmas ‘hygge’


1. The Advent Calendar
Between December 1-24 everyone must receive a small present, neatly wrapped and placed in a Christmas stocking or hung on the wall. These presents are often foudn in the form of sweets calendars that unveil thematic puzzles. Moreover, the Advent Calendar is also sometimes subject of entertainment programs. In 2013 DR3 channel has aired a Christmas calendar named 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Each day, the television channel broadcast a film with an actor who is somehow related to Kevin Bacon – but by no more than 6 degrees.

2. The Christmas ‘Lunch’
The winner of the title of ”Christmas Eve runner-up” , the Christmas Lunch is the most feared and hyped social event of the year. Workplaces organize these venues as well, typically early in December and in some cases even at the end of November (for OBVIOUS reasons, of course…)
Main ingredients for a good Danish Christmas Lunch? Meat, beer, snaps
(probably you will encounter a certain group pressure to drink more than one snaps), beer, again of course, pieces of herring, which are swimming in sauces of curry, tomato or dill and probably again some snaps.
Pork is the classic choice that comes in variations such as 1) ‘medisterpølse’, a sausage made up by the slaughterhouse’s leftovers from pigs, 2) ‘flæskesteg’, aka. roast pork and crackling (pig meat and pig skin) and 3) ‘frikadeller’, meat balls.
If you’re into competitive eating, you’ll most definitely have a good time with ris á la mande. In such a competition, the winner is regularly determined the person who finds the hidden treasure of the dessert: the almond. 🙂

3. Slow motion around the Christmas tree
This is something you would normally see families doing. Family members standing in a circle around a coniferous tree on a wooden platform, clasping each other’s hands awkwardly as they shuffle back and forwards in circles. At the same time trying not to get burned by the small candles on the tree while still getting enough light to be able to read the text of some hymn – and singing or muttering the hymn. The intimacy and Christian touch of this tradition render some people uncomfortable, but it’s probably the most christmasy part of Christmas and hence hard to drop.

As a bonus: In some families, Christmas Eve ends with a competition, which – contrary to ris á l’amande – does not include food or a present. The challenge is choosing the candle on the Christmas tree which will burn out as the last one. By then, some family members may be asleep, and the winner merely receives some miserable ‘honour’.

4. Slowly, slowly, present, unwrap
This compulsory séance paves the way for another tradition in slow motion: The ritual of unwrapping presents. Unlike other countries, presents are not unwrapped in a chaotic frenzy.
No. One package at a time is carefully chosen from underneath the Christmas tree, and the rightful receiver opens the present, while everyone stares in happy/tense anticipation. This is when it turns into a theatrical exercise as the person blessed with a certain gift is expected to show sincere gratitude.
Within seconds, the receiver must manage to express how this was the missing item of his/her life.