Christmas with Emilie


Emilie WIndelin

Danish family standing around the Christmas tree.

Emilie Windelin, Staff Reporter

Christmas is celebrated all over the world, whether it is here in the US or on the other side of the globe in a tiny country like Denmark. Just like different families have different Christmas traditions, different countries celebrate this holiday in different ways. Of course we all have the food, the presents and Mr. Santa Claus, but I never realized how weird some of the smaller traditions sound if you are not used to them. Imagine if you did not know anything about Christmas, and someone told you it is a night where a complete stranger dumps down your chimney and leaves packages for you. It may sound completely rational to people who are used to it, but if you have never heard of it before it just sounds a bit creepy.

Christmas in Denmark, where I am from, is in many ways just like here in the US. We decorate a Christmas tree, eat lots of food and of course, we open a lot of presents. However, there are some things that we do differently that seem to be very unique for European countries. First of all, our entire Christmas takes place on Dec. 24, on what we all know as Christmas Eve. On this night Danes usually go to either sides of their families and have a big traditional Christmas dinner consisting either of duck, goose or pork, with potatoes and brown sauce. All this is usually followed by a traditional desert called Risalamande.This is a rice pudding desert, filled with chopped almonds. Hidden somewhere in the desert is one whole almond, and whoever gets the almond receives the so called “almond present.”

After the long dinner, we finally make it to what we have all been waiting for. The entire family leaves the room, while one person stays behind and lights living candles on the Christmas tree. While artificial trees are really popular here in the US, it is almost impossible to get a artificial tree in a proper size in Denmark. Therefore, everybody has to get real trees for Christmas. When all the lights are burning, we all come back into the room. Once we are all back, we all join hands around the tree and then each person gets to pick a traditional Christmas song that we have to sing. Before I came here, I never thought about how weird this tradition sounds if you do not know it. The concept of dancing around the Christmas tree should not be completely foreign to you, considering you probably all know the song “Rocking around the Christmas tree.” That said, I get how this part might sound like a strange religious act, if you have never heard of it before. Luckily that is not the case, and it is a really important part of the Danish Christmas Eve.

In the US, Christmas morning the 25th is one of the most significant parts of the Christmas celebration. While in Denmark we open our presents right after we have danced around the Christmas tree, here you wait until the next morning to open your gifts. In the dead of night Santa Clause supposedly slides down through the chimney, land in your living room, eats the food and beverage that is put out for him and in the end leaves presents for you to open the following morning. Santa technically has the same job in Denmark, but instead of coming during the night, he is supposed to come while we are all gathered and hand the presents to us in person.When you think about it, it is really strange that we are supposed to be okay with a complete strange just barging into our houses.

Besides the actual Christmas Eve, the Danes also have a lot of other traditions throughout the month of December. This includes presents and candle-lighting the last four Sundays before Christmas Eve, and a special candle with numbers on it that we light every night to countdown for Christmas. Even though it is going to be strange not to do all the little things I am so used to during this time, I could not be more exited to experience a real American Christmas. For better or for worse, Christmas is the most beautiful time of the year.