On Christmas in Denmark mischievous elves called Julenisse can have their fun. These elves are said to live in the lofts of old farmhouses and enjoy playing jokes. The Julenisse wear woolen clothes, red bonnets, red stockings and white clogs. Families leave them a bowl of rice pudding or porridge on Christmas Eve to keep their jokes within limits.
In Denmark, Christmas Eve (Juleaften) is a special time. Parents secretly decorate the Christmas tree with home made wood and straw baubles. A Danish Christmas Eve dinner begins with rice pudding (Grod) that holds a magic almond inside. Whoever finds the almond receives a prize. By tradition, the dinner is continued with goose, red cabbage and roasted potatoes. After that lots of pastries and cakes.
The Danish tradition is the Christmas plate. This was a tradition in the early days when rich Danes gave plates biscuits and fruit as presents to their servants. These plates were the nicest and best kind and were not used for everyday use, this is the reason why they became so collectable.
A Danish Christmas
Christmas dominates the last month of the year in Denmark. Everywhere you go, you can see decorations of fir garlands and Christmas lights especially in shopping streets. These days, trees are covered with fairy lights. This is a custom that started when they lit the first Christmas tree in the Town Hall Square in Copenhagen.
The Danes join in the countdown to Christmas Eve by lighting a calendar candle everyday and the Advent wreath on the last four Sundays before Christmas. The advent wreath marks the four Sundays in the Christian Advent with its four candles.
There are various kinds of parties during the Christmas month, the most popular of which is the Christmas Lunch party that is held in most workplaces. The staff eat a typical Danish lunch which consist of special Danish Dishes. This is also accompanied by beer and schnapps or wine.
Many Danish families and friends also go out together to chop down the Christmas tree on one of the last Sundays before Christmas, and afterwards, they gather around.
Christmas Towns in Denmark
Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays in Denmark and almost every city and town has its own way of Yuletide merry-making. The capital city of Copenhagen of course leads with its Christmas Market in Tivoli, a highly-anticipated fair for both locals and visitors. But there are more activities happening all over the country that is also worth checking out. From Aalborg to Zealand, here are some of the ways by which the Danes celebrate Christmas and what visitors can expect from these places:
Aarhus. Christmas is everywhere in this old city in East Jutland and it starts early. In Den Gamle By, the open air museum comes alive with festive decorations that recreate settings from Christmases past. There are Christmas trees spruced up with angel hair and electric fairy lights, streets lit up with lanterns and bedecked with spruce branches and places where you can see people making traditional Christmas dishes like klejner (Danish Christmas cakes) and aebleskiver (puffy fried doughs). There is of course the Christmas market that is popular both amongst locals and visitors along with musical performances.
Odense. Another city where visitors are magically transported to Christmases past is where the writer Hans Christian Andersen was born. The Yuletide Season officially begins on the last weekend of November with the lighting of the big Christmas tree on the city square. Then there is the Hans Christian Andersen Christmas Market where visitors can shop amid an old fashioned market atmosphere, and the City Christmas Market with numerous stalls offering food, local crafts and gift suggestions.
Nyborg. If you’re looking for inspiring Christmas music then head out to the town of Nyborg where aside from a Christmas market you will find lots of entertaining activities for the whole family. The Church of Our Lady heralds the beginning of the Christmas festivities with bell ringing and trumpets from the tower, choir singing and much more. Children will enjoy non-stop Christmas movies, pony and carriage rides and all the delicious traditional Christmas goodies available in the area.
What to do in Denmark this Christmas
Wondering what you can do this Christmas while in Denmark? Apart from the non-stop shopping that you’ll be inspired to do, especially with all the high-end designer shops at the malls of Denmark, there is a lot more they could do. In fact, you won’t run out of things to do while in Denmark, especially during the Christmas season.
- Christmas by the Old Town Museum – To appreciate Denmark even more, you need to witness for yourself the traditions that Denmark has kept intact for the longest time. Relive the history of Denmark with all the mouth-watering Danish pastries and treats. He Old Town Museum is all about history and tradition and definitely a good time.
- Experimentarium City – this is the perfect place for children and the child at heart during Christmas. Whether you are curious about science or about the world, the Science Center in Christianshavn would be a good place to visit with the entire family. Apart from the famous attractions, you will also get the chance to see, touch and experience Science in all its many forms. You can read more about the experimentarium just here !
- Tycho Brache Planetarium – Or about how exploring the outer space during the Christmas time? Not only will the trip be totally educational for both kids and kids at heart, but it will be very entertaining too. Immerse yourself in the wonders of the starry starry sky. The space theatre is so magical that it will surely be a Christmas to remember.
Denmark is very rich in Christmas traditions. To start off, there is the Tivoli Christmas Market where all the local popular attractions are open for both indoor and outdoor entertainment. But of course, it comes with amazing new Christmas things to do too. If you want to experience a different Christmas this year, then you better grab that coat and get out of there. Enjoy midwinter season in Denmark.
Christmas in Denmark: Why Do It This Year?
There is something about the season of Christmas that brings about warmth in everyone’s heart. Some say that it doesn’t matter where you spend Christmas as long as you are with the people you love. Perhaps they could say that because they’ve never tried spending Christmas in Denmark and that makes a huge difference in how they see Christmas celebration.
Christmas is Denmark is filled with wonderful traditions as well as magical experiences. There is nothing like it in the world. As the temperature in the country cools down, the Christmas spirit seems to heat up. From the market glow to the amazing sites all over the country, both indoors and outdoors, indeed there is nothing like Christmas spent in Denmark.
What can you expect then? Here’s a list:
- Christmas shopping is the first on this list. Who doesn’t love the feel of the Christmas rush? If it is all about buying gifts for the people who matter to you, then Denmark is the best place to be. They’ve got the high end brands that everyone wants and they give huge discounts during Christmas. It’s truly a treat! You can also go shopping in Copenhagen !
- Christmas Markets in Denmark are the best too. They stay up until the wee hours for those who want to shop after work. They showcase various Christmas ornaments and goodies that will remind you of how beautiful this season is for the celebration that it is! Check this article for information about shopping in Denmark !
- Christmas Ornaments bring the city to life during the day and especially during the night. The city seems to become different when all the Christmas lights are lit up! Indeed, the place is as magical as one would imagine it to be.
There is nothing like Christmas at home, they say, but wait until you experience the Christmas in Denmark. Then you would feel that it is where home truly is!
Christmas traditions in Denmark
Without a doubt, Christmas is one of the biggest holiday events in most parts of the world, and each culture has its own way of celebrating this joyous season. In Denmark, Christmas, or “Jul” (an old Nordic word which means feast) is a main event anticipated by everyone which is marked with traditions that are centuries-old. Indeed there is more to Christmas in Denmark than the festive markets that can be seen in virtually every city and town.
The holiday festivities start on the 1st day of December and carry on until the eve of the following year. There are of course the usual sprucing of trees, putting up Christmas lights and making cookies and candies. But the most important days during the holidays are from the 24th to the 26th of December and the Danish home is the center stage for all the activities. On Christmas Eve (or the “Juleaften”), families gather around for a Christmas dinner of prune-stuffed roast duck or goose, red cabbage, baked potatoes and a dessert of cinnamon-laced rice pudding called Grod.
The same pudding is also laid out on the tree for the “Nisse,” a helpful but mischievous elf who plays pranks during the holiday season. The pudding is meant to appease the Nisse. Another dessert pudding eaten during Christmas Eve is made with whipped creams and almonds, with a whole one hidden inside. Whoever finds the almond wins a prize of a chocolate or marzipan treat. After dinner, the family gathers around the tree to sing Christmas carols and open gifts.
On Christmas day, more eating begins with breakfast where families partake of cupcakes called Ableskiver. Then it’s off to lunch and dinner with relatives with tables laden with fixings for smorrebrod and lots of beer and schnapps.
Best Christmas Gifts from Denmark
Want to give the best of Danish gifts to your loved ones? Here are some of the most popular items that are made in Denmark and are sure to make the people in your list feel really special:
Cheese Basket. Denmark is known for good cheeses and the Danish almost always have cheese as part of their daily meals. From the mild and soft to the hard and pungent, there is a variety of cheeses that have put Denmark in the world culinary map. Give your foodie friends an assortment of traditionally made cheeses like Blue Castello, Cream Havarti, Danablu, Danish Fontina, Esrom, Mycella, Samso and many more.
Royal Copenhagen China. Handcrafted and painted china made by Royal Copenhagen is certainly one of Denmark’s cultural icons. The exquisite porcelain products with the trademark blue and white patterns has been produced in Copenhagen for over 230 years. Choose from a wide array of porcelain and ceramic products such as dinnerware, figurines and even Christmas ornaments.
Georg Jensen Jewelry. For that special someone in your life, a luxurious silver jewelry piece from renowned Danish silversmith Georg Jensen may just be the perfect gift for Christmas. From his humble shop in Copenhagen, the Jensen jewelry brand has gained international fame and now has outlets in major cities such as New York, Paris, London and Berlin.
Danish Wool Sweater. Hand-knitted thick and cozy wool sweaters are great gifts for people of all ages. The traditional Danish wool sweater often have a pattern design knitted into them. You can get this from any shop in the mall or find them in local Christmas markets.
Danish Folklore: The Tomte Beyond Christmas
The tomte, also called the nisse, is most popularly known as a kindly brownie-like creature of Danish folklore. Like his British cousin the brownie or hob, the tomte has been believed to aid kind-hearted farmers with their duties, making the fields yield a bumper crop, and the livestock double in their yield of milk, wool, calves and kids even in the middle of the harshest winter.
At times, he is considered to be a Scandinavian version of Santa Claus, delivering gifts to children on the eve of the holiday. Just like his bowl-full-of-jelly jolly counterpart, the tomte is known to ride a sleigh driven by reindeer through the town – although he prefers to stick to the ground, and enter homes through the front door, as that is the polite thing to do.
However, there is much more to the tomte than meets the eye, and there is a decidedly darker tone to his fey existence, and he is one creature not to be slighted without having to face the direst of consequences.
The tomte is first and foremost not just a house spirit that resides in a home along with its human inhabitants, but is the protector of the estate from famine and misfortune. He is fundametally a shapeshifter, but his best-known form is that of an elderly man with a full beard, dressed in farmer's garb, with eyes that glow in the dark.
Despite his size – half the height of a full-grown man –, the tomte is known to have immense strength. How else would he get all the tasks done in an evening as the farmer slept on? However, the tomte is also a stickler for rules and manners. All he asks in return is for a bowl of porridge with a pat of butter on top. Any deviation from this offering – and woe betide the poor fool who decides to dine on the porridge – will incurr the tomte's wrath. He may do something as mischevous as tie two cow's tails together, to a much more harsher punishment as killing off the farmer's favored livestock.
The tomte's favored creature was the horse, and caring and grooming a horse well will often earn the tomte's approval and favor. The fey folk may decide to infuse more vigor into a particularly handsome and healthy steed, or perhaps even braid its mane and tail. Of course, to human eyes, the braids may simply look like tangles from negligent brushing, but wiser ones know enough to not undo the tomte's hard work, lest fearsome punishments befall them.
Julemanden: Denmark's Very Own Christmas Man
In Greenland, there lives a man known as the Julemanden who gives gifts to the children of Denmark every December 24. He is especially fond of risengrod, a native delicacy which is essentially rice pudding with cinnamon sugar and with a slice of butter. He is also assisted by nisse, the Danish counterpart of elves…so goes the story from a Danish folklore.
Julemanden is roughly translated as the Yule Man or the Christmas Man. His story became popular only after World War II. The influence drawn from the American Santa is quite evident although its image became nearer to the qualities of Father Christmas through time. The character is tied to the very roots of Danish folklore and mythology.
For all intents and purposes, the Julemanden looks like Santa Claus or Father Christmas and so we have to ask why a different name was chosen. When countries adopt a practice of another, they usually try to make them their own starting from the name. That is exactly how traditions are formed – by creating some new ideas or by adopting an existing one and modifying them to agree with cultural beliefs and practices.
Visiting houses to bring gifts is also being done by Julemanden but he does one thing which the American Santa doesn't . This is the practice of leaving a garland of Danish flags to the fir tree of every home. He also plays the band and sings Christmas songs with the crowd. Now, the American Santa isn't exactly known for these and the Julemanden certainly comes on its own because of its adherence to Danish identity.
J-Day: Annual Launch of the Christmas Beer
There is one beer that has managed to make its presence felt in the Danish market especially during the Christmas holidays. In fact, its annual arrival is very much anticipated as early as November. Welcome Tuborg Julebryg or Tuborg Christmas Brew from Carlsberg. It is welcomed no less with a special day called the J-Day.
This Christmas beer surprisingly is the fourth best-selling beer in Denmark even if it's only seasonal. Many associate this beer to the advertisement where Santa wears blue clothing instead of the very familiar red suit. It was actually a commercial made for the regular Tuborg Pilsner but it became so popular that it was eventually used for the Christmas beer with the blue and white mark as well.
The J-Day tradition of annually welcoming the comeback of the Tuborg Christmas beer started in 1990. This day of celebration is observed during the first Friday of November. The start of the festive season is marked by Carslberg employees going around cafes and bars handing out free beer to guests as they sing a traditional Tuborg Christmas brew song. The day dedicated to this Christmas beer has become so well-known in the country that J-Day is actually found in the Danish dictionary.
This dark-golden beer is a result of mixing three beers. It has the aroma of caramel, grain, liquorice, and blackcurrant. It stands out among the many beers offered to the Danish market. Carslberg holds the advantage of dominating the beer market in Denmark especially since its buy-out of of main competitor, Tuborg. Still. several regional and microbreweries manage to survive and get their consumer share.
Horsens Has Own Christmas Town
If the famous Tivoli Gardens in the Danish capital of Copenhagen has its own version of winter wonderland, there’s another part of Denmark which you should visit every December if you wish to have a real Christmas experience. The place to remember is Horsens Christmas Town.
Horsens Juleby or the famous Christmas Town is situated at Torvet fronting Vor Frelsers Kirke (Our Saviour’s Church) right in the center of Horsens. What you’ll see here are small and colorful wooden houses decorated with a variety of Christmas decorations, lights plus sweet treats and presents.
There are lots of things to buy here such as wooden toys, felt hats, burnt almonds, art works and Christmas decors. A special program is also organized to entertain visitors and this includes music and fun for the entire family. The best part is that it’s free to visit this place where individuals and families can have a memorable Christmas vacation.
The Horsens Christmas Town can be visited from December 4 to 20 each year. If the name sounds not very familiar to you, Horsens is a town in the southern part of Aarhus and east of Jutland. History has it that its name was taken from two Danish words hors which refers to horse and naes which means headland. It is here in Horsens where the first Danish iron foundry outside of Copenhagen and factories that manufacture tobacco and textile were established.
Horsens holds various cultural and entertainment events every year such as the European Medieval Festival, the Music Festival, the Children’s Theater Festival and the Crime Festival among others. These events even feature internationally renowned artists from other countries. Some of those that have performed in concerts here or are still planning to perform in this small town include Elton John, The Beach Boys, Tom Jones, Bryan Adams, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, U2 and Madonna.
Santa Claus Meetup in Denmark
Christmas starts early in Denmark. Preparations for the most festive celebration in December starts in July as numerous Santa Claus, the main father figure of Christmas, and their helpers meet up in the country’s capital city.
This event that takes place every summer is known as the Father Christmas & Christmas Elves Congress or the World Santa Claus Congress. During this yearly gathering at the Bakken Amusement Park in Copenhagen, Santa Claus representatives from Europe, the U.S., Canada and Japan come together dressed in their red suits to discuss various issues for 3 to 4 days. Some of the issues they take up are ways to improve the rooftop parking conditions, stronger ropes for roof-elves, weight regulations for Santas and standards of cleaning the chimney where Santa Claus is known to pass through when visiting houses in Christmastime. Previous topics taken up were international taxation rules regarding presents, the size of official Santa spoons and the exact date of delivery of Christmas gifts. As to the weight issue, there was a time that the Santas rode in their bicycles as a way of showing people that they don’t ignore their health.
It was in 1957 when the first Father Christmas congress was held. Danish artist and entertainer Professor Tribini was credited for organizing the event in realization of his dream of gathering the world’s Santas for fun activities during the summer season. Initially, only the Santas from Denmark and Sweden attended the event but through the years, representatives from other countries were encouraged to join as well. In 2009, an estimated 100 Santas from 10 different countries attended the congress.
The Father Christmas Congress does not focus solely on serious discussions of matters affecting Santa Claus. Of course, there are fun activities as well as charity work that they take part in. There are stage performances, Christmas cake baking and storytelling sessions for children. The highlight of the event is the traditional parade around the Copenhagen city center.