Merry Christmas from Expat in Denmark
Glædelig Jul
This edition of the newsletter will, as you might have realized from the title, be about the ubiquitously celebrated Christmas. Although it takes its name from the figure of Jesus Christ, it has grown to be a mainly cultural tradition, with people believing more in the food being served and singing of songs, than the religious figurehead of Christianity. This newspaper will take you through some of the particularly Danish Christmas traditions. It will not be all Christmas, however. There will also be an article about how to enjoy the Danish Winter.
From all of us at the Expat in Denmark team, we wish you a very merry end of the year and to those of you who celebrate it, a very merry Christmas.
Your feedback on this newsletter is valuable to us so you're always welcome to send it to [email protected]
The Danish Christmas
In Denmark, the Christmas celebrations culminate on the eve of the 24th of December, Christmas eve or "juleaften". However the entire month of December is filled with Christmas-related traditions, like the "julefrokost" - Christmas lunch, which we wrote about in last month's edition of the newsletter -> read it here.

The Danish Christmas is filled with different traditions, which are musts in some families and undiscovered in others. There are however traditions that have become staples in most homes around the country. Below we will introduce you to some of the more ubiquitous Danish Christmas traditions.
The Christmas Calendar
The Christmas calendar is three-fold. Two of them you can get in the supermarket and the other will arrive every evening on your tv. Both are traditions that are thoroughly enjoyed across the land of Denmark.
The TV-calendar
Every year on both (the TV-channels) DR1 and TV2, the broadcasting of a "julekalender" begins. And every year there is fierce competition between the two tv-channels about who will come out on top in terms of viewers and ratings. The "julekalender" is mainly aimed at children and they of course have varying success. If the calendar hits the sweet spot in the Danish population however, you will surely be able to hear people, both children and adults, whispering about what has happened and what the next plot twist will be.
The 'Advent' calendar
"Haven't the shops started early this year?" This question is on many people's lips when November comes around each year. For some reason, the Danes keep getting surprised, that the shops throughout the country start selling Christmas-themed stuff as early as October. One of those Christmas-themed objects is the advent calendar, also called "julekalender".

Yes, the tv-calendar and the advent calendar are called by the same name, and the confusion might be complete, when the advent calendar is designed in the theme of the tv-calendar. Nevertheless, the advent calendar, with 24 little doors (låger), comes in many shapes and sizes and is standing on the shelf in almost all Danish family homes. Inside the little doors you will often find chocolate or other types of candy.
The Calendar candle
"Kalenderlyset" is the third and final calendar. As ubiquitous as the beforementioned calendar, this very specific candle is lit for only 24 days of the year. With dates from the 1st of December to the 24th marked vertically on the candle, tradition states that you have to burn down the candle corresponding to the date.
During those 24 days, almost every living room will have a "kalenderlys" burning.

Just like the beforementioned calendar, this candle comes in many sizes, and if you get lucky during your trip to the supermarket, you might overhear a Danish couple bickering over what candle to get. And it is a tough question. If you get a thin candle, you might burn it too far down, if you forget it. If the candle is too thick, you could be forced to have it burning into the new year. The Danish Christmas is filled with nail-biting dilemmas.
The Christmas Tree
The classic Christmas pine tree has become a worldwide phenomenon. However, the Danes have quite a special relationship with their Christmas tree. Denmark is a major producer of live Christmas trees, and each year Denmark exports 90% of its production of these special trees to the rest of Europe. Estimated sales amount to over 1 billion Danish kroner. No wonder they enjoy them so much.

A tree in the living room
"Juletræet" has become a big part of celebrating Christmas in Denmark and an integral part of the Christmas "hygge". The Danes' fondness of the Christmas also shows in that they invite it inside their living room. It stands there during the month of December, with small, sometimes homemade, decorations on its branches. In some cases, the tree will stand there, in the living room, all the way into January when it has lost its leaves and died.
Dancing around the tree
Danes dance around the Christmas tree at Christmas eve. This might be where the Danes take their tree-loving a step to far. And if you ask a Dane why they do it, they probably won't be able to give you a concrete answer. They will likely say that "it's just tradition". Whilst dancing around the tree hand in hand, the Danes will sing Christmas carols in abundance. Some enjoy it, and want to keep singing the whole night through, while others, just want to move on to opening the presents, which most Danes have lying under the tree.

Where the tradition comes from is clouded in uncertainty, and there are many explanations. It is however certain, that the first mention of the dancing phenomena was in the most popular Christmas carol, "Højt fra træets grønne top" (1847) - From high up on the Christmas tree. Statistically more than 90% of the Danes dance around the tree on Christmas eve, and more than 80% sing "Højt fra træets grønne top".
På loftet sidder nissen
Another popular Christmas carol is "På loftet sidder nissen med sin julegrød" - in the attic sits an elf with Christmas porridge. While the song is from 1911, it reports of a tradition which goes further back in history. Once upon a Viking time, the supernatural "nisse" was invented, and they would possess magical powers. So, to stay in the good books of the "nisse" you would have to offer gifts. One of those gifts was rice porridge, and you would put it in the attic (if you had one) for the "nisse" to eat overnight. If the porridge had been eaten the morning after, many believed it was a symbol of good omen. Maybe some believed that the rats were living their best life.
The Foods of Christmas
Danes are very particular about what they eat at Christmas. Each family has their own unique way of doing Christmas. However, there are some foods that are specifically Danish, and enjoyed by almost everyone throughout the country. Here are some of them. If you want to read a thorough guide on the Danish Christmas dinner, be sure to click the red button below these articles.
'Apple slices' - A Danish Christmas classic. Served with powdered sugar and jam, "æbleskiver" are enjoyed throughout the month of December. Although they are called 'Apple slices', apples have long seized to be a part of the recipe. "Æbleskiver" are simply fried batter, made in a specialized pan called "æbleskivejern", only used for making this specific snack.

They are quite easy to make, but if you don't have an "æbleskivejern" you can find them in the frozen goods section of the supermarket. If you want to try out a freshly made "æbleskive", they are served with hot wine (gløgg) at every Christmas market in the country.
Red Cabbage - Rødkål
If you say "rødkål" you automatically say Christmas dinner in Denmark. More than 90% of Danes eat this when Christmas comes around.
Served boiled in most homes on Christmas eve, the "rødkål" is accompanying the meats, potatoes, and brown sauce at the Christmas table.

The origin story of the red cabbage, which is actually purple, goes back to the early 19 hundreds. Traditionally it was served with white potatoes. That colour combination of the two components had resemblance to the Danish flag, and thus the bond between Danes and the purple, red cabbage was created.
Caramelized Potatoes
Potatoes caramelized in sugar in a hot pan. The most popular Danish dish at Christmas eve. Some studies suggest that over 95% of the Danes expect there to be "brunede kartofler" - Browned potatoes, on the Christmas table.

Although sugar, was mainly a luxury afforded to rich people when the recipe was invented in the 1800's, it is now a mainstay at every home on the 24th of December. If you decide to try and make this delicious dish, be careful. Being hit by a splurge of hot sugar can leave scars for life. It is a risk that many are willing to take however, because nothing matches the first bite of a browned potato with brown sauce on top.
A dish that sounds French but is as Danish as Christmas dishes come. When the Danes have stuffed their bellies full of delicious Christmas food, the only thing there is room for is Risalamande. Through a Christmas miracle, the Danes have gotten an extra stomach, exclusively made for Risalamande. Almost exclusively eaten on Christmas eve, Risalamande is the culmination of the Christmas dinner.

The ingredients are simple. Rice porridge, chopped almonds, whipped cream and vanilla all mixed up into a big bowl. It is served with a sweet and warm cherry sauce.
Tradition states that one whole almond has to be placed in the risalamande, and the person who is lucky enough to find it, will receive the "mandelgave" - the almond present.
Winter in Danish
Although the winter in Denmark can be rather unpleasant, it also opens up a lot of opportunities to do stuff only available to you in the coldest months of the year. These articles will describe some of the wonderful things you can occupy your time with these next frost-bound months.
Christmas Markets
Throughout the cities of Denmark, you will find Christmas markets in all shapes and sizes. From late November each and every year Denmark's Christmas markets will present you with a blend of shopping, "hygge" and yuletide spirit.

Usually, you will find the Christmas market at a central square in the city. The bigger the city, the more Christmas markets there will be. In Copenhagen for instance, you will be able to find a Christmas market at almost every square in the inner city. At you can go through a thorough list of the different markets throughout the country.
When Denmark freezes over
While there is the opportunity to go ice-skating all year round in Denmark, there is nothing quite like putting on the skates and venturing out onto a lake or a square, which are usually traversed by sailing or walking. When the temperatures plummet, the lakes and ponds freeze over. This draws out even the most temperature-sensitive Danes from hiding, and when the authorities deem it safe, you will see everything from families with small children to former figure skaters occupy the ice.

If you live in the city, chances are, the closest place to ice-skate is at a square. The King's Square and Frederiksberg Runddel in Copenhagen have traditionally had ice-rinks in the winter months. In Aarhus, there will be an ice rink located not far from ARoS - Aarhus Art Museum. The picture shows the lakes of Copenhagen, which are popular destinations for skating as well.
Face your freezing fears!
For the most part, the Scandinavians and maybe particularly the Danes have moved away from the rough descriptors from the Vikings. However, a quite thrilling (and chilling) tradition has gained traction amongst the Danes in recent years. "Vinterbadning", translated as winter bathing. Described by some, as the opposite of eating a very hot chili, "vinterbadning" is not for the faint-hearted.

However, the tradition is not just practiced for the sake of it. Since the first winter bathing establishment was created in the 1800's, the ice-cold tradition has been associated with health and well-being. It is said to benefit both body and soul. If you are interested in this phenomenon, chances are that one of your colleagues has tried it or maybe they even enjoy it on a regular basis.
Sleds and Skis
Whenever the weather allows it, the Danes will take the opportunity to go sled riding or skiing. Just like when the lakes freeze over, you will see everything from families with sleds (kælke) under their arms to avid skiers ploughing away on their "langrend". Join the Danes in enjoying the snow-covered parks and forests. Even if you don't have a sled or skis, it is definitely enjoyable to observe, with a cup of hot cocoa, served from your thermos - "termokande".

The Danish Nature Agency have made a guide on winter activities in the Danish nature. The guide is in Danish, but there is a map which shows locations of good places to enjoy the snow. Click the green button below to go to their website.

While you are out and about, don't miss the chance to try and spot the footprints of the different animals roaming Danish nature. The Danish Nature Agency have also made a guide on looking for animal tracks. -> A guide on animal tracks
Upcoming events for you
Copenhagen Christmas Walk
Ho! Ho! Ho! Are you ready for a true Christmas adventure?
Indulge in traditional Christmas markets and let the sweet scent of æbleskiver and gløgg, tickle your tastebuds. The walk will guide you to the most beautiful parts of Christmassy Copenhagen
The free tour will be available as an online walk guide until the 26th of December. The walk is free and you will start at Vesterbrogade 4B, 1620 Copenhagen
Newcomers' Info Evening
New in town? Where do you find practical information about life in Aarhus and Denmark? How do you build a social network? And what about Danish Culture?

Join a Newcomers' Info Evening specially tailored to all international professionals and accompanying partners new to Aarhus. The event will be at Dokk1 and online on the 25th of January from 17:00. The event is free.
Weekly International Meeutp
The Friday weekly international meetup is a great opportunity for you to meet internationals and locals!

The event is at the No Stress Café at Mageløs 1, 5000 Odense. Their will be an event every week and the next meetup is already tomorrow, the 22nd of December from 20:00.
Do you have a story that is relevant to this community? Then we encourage you to email us at; [email protected]. Maybe we can feature you, your story or your ideas in a future edition of the newsletter