13th December in Denmark (as well as other Scandinavian countries) is St Lucia Day. It was thought to be the shortest day of the year before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar and in schools there is a tradition on a St Lucia procession with girls dressed in white, carrying candles to bring light to the dark. The first girl traditionally wears a crown of four candles. It is not a big celebration outside of schools but in conversation with Danish friends who had been the St Lucia bride leading the procession when they were little – it is a very special and magical memory. Recently I learnt a lot more about the story of St Lucia (or St Lucy) from my son. He is fascinated by the traditional stories he is told at school from the story of Diwali to this one (I really believe the teaching of different celebrations is really enriching his knowledge and understanding of different cultures). The story is St Lucy secretly brought food to persecuted Christians in Rome, who were forced underground into the catacombs. Lucy would wear a crown of candles so she could use both of her hands to carry items. This article tells a lot more about the Swedish tradition and how to celebrate.
A big part of a traditional celebration is food, of course and traditionally St Lucia breads are made. There are special shaped sweet breads flavoured with saffron. I made them a few years ago and I used the recipe in this book and will definitely try them again.
Christmas is a time for giving and not just to friends and families. Christmas is a time when the difference between affluent people and those less well off become apparent. I have read so many heartbreaking stories of children who dread going back to school after the summer holidays and the Christmas break as their holidays have been very different to many of their classmates. Although Denmark is a relatively affluent country in comparison to many others, there are still a huge number of people in economic need, whether they are homeless, single parents, elderly people or those new to Denmark, they are still here.I have heard the argument that many people who access gifts, support and services offered at Christmas are ‘on the take’. Yes of course there are a minority of people like this but I’d rather take the risk that a donation of a food item may go to one of these people than not give at all to the majority of genuine people.
The Danish People’s Church has produced a really handy web page outlining many of the main charities looking for charitable help over the Christmas period – this is the link.
You may also notice in shops and supermarket little slips of paper you can add to your shop that give support to some of the main charities offering Christmas assistance. I bought a 25dkk one in Netto to support one such charity.
If you are thinking of volunteering your time over Christmas, which is always needed, this website has information about opportunities for this.
I have merely scratched the surface of this but I hope it gives you an idea of how to help, if you wish to. Please do comment here or on my Facebook page if you have any other great suggestions and I will do my best to incorporate them here.
Finally for more of a lowdown on Christmas in Denmark don’t forget to sign up for my guide and also get a holiday and celebrations printable for 2018 featuring illustrations by Charlotte Rule.
Christmas is a wonderful time of the year but celebrating it is a country which is not your own can pose some challenges as well as new and exciting traditions to discover. I was talking to a former client of mine recently and she suggested doing a post about how to celebrate Christmas in Copenhagen would be a good idea. Whilst my son was sick as few weeks ago with a tummy bug, I sat with him on the bed and wrote a mini guide to Christmas in Copenhagen. It was a little too long for a blog post so I made it into an ebook. It is short guide which gives you information about where to get hold of Christmas food, what are traditional Danish treats, how to celebrate like a Dane and things to do to enjoy the season to its fullest.
I had been working on a two page printable with next year’s public holidays and celebrations on. Whether you save it on your computer or device or print out and stick on your fridge, you’ll never miss an important date next year. It features some key events celebrated in Denmark, with a little bit of information about each. You’ll no longer wonder why your child needs a costume for Fastelavn or even what it is. The mystery of why there are so many ducks and geese for sale in supermarkets in November will be solved.
I am delighted to have some original artwork on the printable by a talented, Copenhagen based artist, Charlotte Rule. Find out more about her work at her website here.
I decided the combine to two as a little free Christmas gift for my readers, followers and anyone who would find it useful.To get hold of your free copy of both direct to your inbox simply click here to sign up for it.
I hope you like this little free gift and wishing you season’s greetings!
So, it’s only a few days until Christmas and with batteries low it is time for me to hibernate for a few weeks. I have been posting a little less this last month due to our house move and a change of medication for me (more of this in the new year) but there is plenty on the cards for the new year with a big new project in the planning stages.
We will be spending Christmas here in Copenhagen in our very cosy temporary apartment and then a peaceful new year in a cottage in the forest as usual as you may recall my dislike of New Year celebrations in the city.
So now is the time to wish you all a Merry Christmas, Glædelig jul and happy holidays.
I was delighted to be invited by Erin, the blogger behind One Oregon Girl Around the World, to share one of my Danish Christmas food favourites. You can read mine and six other Copenhagen based bloggers favourites here.
I have been looking around the internet and these are the Christmas Markets here in Copenhagen that took my fancy. I shall remove those that are past and add in new ones so make sure you bookmark this page.
Dec 9 – 20 Christiania Julemarked
Dec 17 Christmas Hygge BRUS 4.0
Dec 17 Tekstilskolen Julemarked
Dec 17 Julemarked på Allegade 7
Dec 18 Keramik Marked
When I was at the opening of think.dk, there was a quote that stuck with me.
“Every dollar you spend is a vote for the world you want to live in.”
This Christmas I took this to heart. Many gifts I have bought have been from Etsy, handmade or vintage and from small businesses (where apparently an actual person does a happy dance). If I have bought a book, it has been either a very old favourite or well-chosen book that I hope the recipient will enjoy. For friends I created something they will enjoy but not clutter up the house after Christmas. My son will, as usual, hand make something for his grandparents.
This year I also gave myself a budget for charitable donations. I donated to Danske Folkehjælp Christmas fundraiser after reading this article. I also donated to Snap og Sokker, who are raising money to buy socks for homeless men in Vesterbro (read more here, their fundraiser is nearly over so don’t delay). A friend of mine instagrammed this photo and I popped over to The Fmly Store and bought one of their cool Christmas jumpers which they donate half the price to Save the Children. Finally, each morning we see a homeless man who has been sleeping at Sydhavn Station and has such an awful cough. He has clearly been living on the street for a long time. I bought a hot coffee and a cheese roll for him on a cold morning last week. I got a smile for the coffee but the cheese roll resulted in the widest, most genuine smile I have been lucky to receive in a long while.
In the wider scheme of Christmas, when I am very aware of how fortunate and privileged my family is, these small things really make my money vote for a world I want to live in.
As expats we have lived in two different countries, observed and in many cases adopted some of the traditions around us.
People often ask us what we do for Christmas dinner now we live in Denmark. If I am honest I am not a massive fan of traditional English Christmas dinner. I can’t recall the last time we had a turkey when we lived in the UK and despite my mum saying I would grow into liking Christmas Pudding, I never did.In Denmark it is traditional to eat your Christmas meal on Christmas Eve so we meet half way by eating Danish Christmas dinner on the 25th. So we enjoy a roast duck with brune kartofler (sugared potatoes) or roast potatoes (depending how we feel that year), red cabbage but with a bit of Brit thrown in with stuffing, Brussel sprouts and for my husband, bread sauce.
But the pinnacle for me is the traditional Danish Christmas dessert of ris a l’amande. A cold rice pudding thickened with whipped cream, packed full of almonds and then topped with warm cherry sauce. The best thing for me how I enjoy my Christmas dinner without feeling too stuffed and bloated. It is a great new way to approach the meal.
The other thing about Christmas that I think we have adopted from the Danes is the idea of it being a lot less stressful. From the end of November onwards you see many articles online and in print media aimed at people in the UK about how to have a stress-free Christmas, the idea that a time that should be about peace, family and enjoyment turns into a stress-fest of arguing relatives, burnt food and panic bought rubbish presents. I am sure this is the case for some people but the idea that it is a stressful time is put into people’s minds, thus becoming a self fulfilling prophesy. Recently there was an interesting article by Helen Russell about how to do Christmas like a Viking and the biggest take home message from this was that Danes like their families (who they see regularly anyway and not just at Christmas), enjoy a restful time at Christmas and don’t go mad buying presents (which it is quite acceptable to return anyway).Most shops and businesses close from the 23rd onwards to the concept of panic buying is reduced. Gifts are even wrapped for you in many shops so that added stress is removed. Food needs to be bought before the last few days and most popular ingredients such as cherry sauce and almonds are already selling out or low in stock a week before Christmas. So nofighting over the last jar of cranberry sauce in Asda and people fighting over parking spaces on Christmas Eve.
In fact shopping yesterday in Tiger I noticed that the Christmas stuff was already taking a back seat to normal stock and New Year’s Eve things. We don’t host a big Christmas (read about virtual Christmas here) so we don’t have the dinner stress but frankly when we had more people around the table for Christmas dinner years ago I still didn’t fuss too much about it. Growing up the actual timing of our Christmas dinner was a very fluid thing and we enjoyed it all the more.
There are a few things we still have at Christmas harking back to our British roots – a big barrel of Twiglets, a Chocolate Orange and a big box of Crackers which will hopefully include that weird cellophane fish that tells your mood and some very lame jokes. My husband always make a traditional Christmas Cake from the Women’s institute Christmas cook book and whenever we have given slices of it to Danes, they never mention it again. Presumably they are operating on the philosophy if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all! It is easy to keep the parts of Christmas we loved as kids away from modern influences. I loved this article by Emma Conway about why Christmas was rubbish in the ’80s and we still loved it. All the things the writer talks about are the things we reminisce about to our son and the bedrock of how Christmas should be, to me.The thought of my neighbours dancing tipsily around a tree lit with real candles on Christmas Eve does make me feel slightly nervous but never the less, let’s raise a glass to a stress-free and hyggeligt Danish Christmas!