5 Danish Christmas Traditions

Copenhagen Tivoli Gardens at Christmas


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Many visitors are drawn to the holiday cheer of the Christmas season in Denmark. This magical time of year is one of the best seasons to visit Denmark, which has many unique and interesting traditions. A holiday visit will teach you a lot about the culture from how to say "Merry Christmas" in Danish (Glaedelig Jul) to new traditions and the splendor of Danish Christmas markets.

Advent Wreath

At the start of the Christmas season, four weeks before Christmas Day, Danes light the traditional Advent wreath, which has four candles. A candle is lit every Sunday until Christmas Eve. The calendars are filled with chocolate or candy and given to children to enjoy throughout the month of December during the countdown to Christmas.

St. Lucia Day

As in other Scandinavian countries, Danes mark the feast day of St. Lucia on December 13. She was a third-century martyr who brought food to Christians in hiding. As part of the celebration, the eldest girl in each family portrays St. Lucia, putting on a white robe in the morning wearing a crown of candles–which sometimes are really lit! Traditionally, she also serves her parents saffron buns and coffee or mulled wine.

Nisse the Mischievous Gnome

Children are a big part of Christmas celebrations in Denmark, as much as they are in the United States and they also have a mythical creature keeping an eye on their behavior. According to legend, Nisse is a gnome that lives in old farmhouses and wears gray woolen clothes, a red bonnet and stockings, and white clogs. When shopping the Christmas markets in Denmark, these little gnomes make great souvenirs.

On Christmas Eve in Denmark, many families leave a bowl of rice pudding or porridge for him so that he is friendly to them and keeps his jokes within limits.

Tivoli Gardens at Christmas

When visiting Denmark during the holiday season, don't miss out on the opportunity to see the Copenhagen's traditional celebrations at Tivoli Gardens. The park will be a spectacle covered in Christmas lights and filled more than a thousand Christmas trees. There will be an abundant selection of Danish Christmas decorations, gifts, and Danish food and drink. Of course, Santa will be there to pose for photographs with the children.

Traditional Christmas Meals

The main part of the holiday celebration in Denmark begins on December 23, with a meal that includes cinnamon rice pudding known as grod. On Christmas Eve, Danes typically have a Christmas dinner of duck or goose, red cabbage, and caramelized potatoes. Afterward, the dessert is usually a lighter rice pudding with whipped cream and chopped almonds. This rice pudding contains one whole almond, and whoever finds it wins an extra treat.

Danish cupcakes, called aebleskiver, are traditional breakfast items on Christmas morning, while Christmas Day lunch is usually cold cuts and different types of fish. Adults typically drink Akvavit with their Christmas meal, which is very alcoholic aperitif popular throughout Scandinavia. On Christmas night, families gather around the tree to exchange presents and sing carols.

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