This blog post was updated on October 8, 2018.
As the first European country I ever visited, Denmark holds a special place in my heart. Though it’s been quite a while since I strolled Copenhagen’s streets, I like to keep up on what’s going on in the country of The Little Mermaid. Here’s what you can expect to find if you travel to Denmark over the holidays.
Christmas is one of the largest, if not the largest, celebration in Denmark. In the past couple of decades, the pre-Christmas commercial frenzy that we know all to well in the U.S. has been a part of Danes’ Novembers as well. Most stores feature lovely holiday displays (with both traditional and modern sensibilities) and many cities and smaller towns deck the streets with holiday greenery and lights.
Most Danish families who celebrate Christmas do so on Christmas Eve. After enjoying a leisurely dinner (typically goose is the main course), family members light candles on Christmas tree, sing traditional songs, and exchange gifts. Religious people attend church services on the afternoon of the 24th so they are free to spend the evening with family.
Christmas in Danish is called Jul, an old Nordic term for “feast,” and it’s easy to see why. Most Danes eat their way through the month of December. Christmas lunches are a favorite tradition (they can be held in the afternoon, but most frequently are hosted in the evening). Christmas lunches can be enjoyed amongst friends, family or coworkers. Often employers host lunches to thank their employees at Christmas time.
Traditional foods served at Christmas lunch are herrings, curry-salad, or stewed Kale with ham and sausage, meatballs, or liver paste. Cheese, cookies and fruit are served at the end of the meal. Most guests wash down their lunch with special beer that is only available during the holidays or snaps. Another social tradition is to invite friends to your home for glögg and sweets. Glögg originated in Sweden and is made with hot red wine, a touch of brandy or snaps, cinnamon, cardamom, raisins and almond slices.