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Glædelig Jul! Danish Holiday Traditions You Need to Experience

Written by Going Places

This blog post was updated on December 20, 2022.

Christmas is one of the biggest celebrations in Denmark. In the past couple of decades, the pre-Christmas commercial frenzy that we in the U.S. know all too well has caught also on in Denmark. Most stores feature lovely holiday displays with both traditional and modern sensibilities. Many cities and smaller towns deck the streets with holiday greenery and lights.

Most Danish families who celebrate 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’re free to spend the evening with family.

So if you want to participate in some festive fun, grab some glogg and make merry with these Danish holiday traditions!

Shop at Local Christmas Markets

Danish holiday traditions like visiting Christmas markets

Christmas markets in Denmark boast a wholesome fun and festive holiday atmosphere for you and the whole family. Shop for handmade crafts and sample delicious holiday food. Christmas markets typically open at the end of November and close shortly after New Year’s Day. Plus, these beloved Christmas markets can be found all over Denmark!

While crafts and sweet holiday treats take center stage, Danish Christmas markets abound in wonderful holiday decorations and experiences. The famed market in Tivoli Friheden amusement park, for example, features a 229-foot tunnel of Christmas lights and rides decked out in cheerful holiday décor. Christmas markets are also prime destinations for carolers, who entertain shoppers with traditional Danish hymns and songs.

Drink Glogg on Sundays

Danish holiday traditions like drinking Glogg

No Danish Christmas could be complete without a Sunday spent drinking glogg — pronounced “glook” — a traditional drink served throughout most Scandinavian countries during the Christmas season. The festive drink is essentially mulled red wine served with spices, raisins, and almonds. Danes usually drink glogg alongside aebleskiver, balls of fried pancake batter topped with syrup, powdered sugar, and jam.

If you’re looking for a fun and cozy way to warm up on those cold winter nights, check out one of the many glogg parties around Denmark. Each Sunday night during December, people gather with friends and family to enjoy a nice glass of glogg, sing Christmas carols, and light Advent wreaths.

Eat and Play Risalamande

Danish holiday traditions like Risalamande

Risalamande is one of Denmark’s treasured cultural traditions. It’s a dessert, but’s it’s also a game! First,  risalamande is a creamy rice pudding mixed with almonds and vanilla and topped with hot cherry sauce, usually made on Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning. Risalamande has been part of Christmas in Denmark for well over a century. Danes believe that by leaving a bowl of risalamande out in their home they will appease the nisser, or Christmas elves, who are otherwise wont to play tricks on children and the unwary.

Risalamande is also part of a game that involves finding a blanched almond hidden in the pudding. In addition to bragging rights, the guest who finds the blanched almond is given a special prize by the host. Very often, the lucky winner will not reveal his or her success until most of the risalamande is gone and their fellow guests are weak from overeating.

Related: Roller Skates? Whale Skin? KFC? Unusual Christmas Traditions Around the World

Have a Julefrokost Meal

Danish holiday traditions like julefrokost

Julefrokost meals place a heavy emphasis on good food, good drink, and good company. Translated into English, julefrokost means “Christmas lunch,” a tad of an understatement given that julefrokost meals typically last all day. Julefrokost is a popular tradition among friends and family, but companies also host julefrokost meals so colleagues can learn more about each other. Among the most common dishes served at julefrokost meals are fish and pork paired with traditional Danish alcoholic beverages like beer and akvavit.

While all who attend julefrokost meals are encouraged to eat and drink heartily, many recommend that newcomers pace themselves and pair their first courses with a soft drink or even a simple glass of water. While food and drink are the most important parts of julefrokost meals, many hosts will also raffle off Christmas presents to lucky guests.

Join Hands Around the Christmas Tree

Danish holiday traditions like dancing around Christmas tree

Danish people usually open their presents on Christmas Eve. The festivities begin at 4 p.m., when most families sit down to a traditional dinner of pork, potatoes, and risalamande for dessert. After dinner come the presents. Many Danes joke that Christmas Eve dinner is often a form of torture for kids, whose eyes remain fixed on the presents under the tree.

Danish Christmas trees themselves are a thing of great beauty. As in most Scandinavian countries, Christmas trees in Denmark are decorated with lighted candles, giving a warmth to the glow of the holiday. After dinner, families join hands and walk around their Christmas tree while singing carols. The exact origins of this tradition are unclear. While some parents tell children that it allows Santa extra time to deliver all his gifts, others say that it emulates angels who circle Christmas trees in heaven. Whatever the origin, it’s a beautiful tradition and a reminder that family is at the center of Danish holiday traditions.

Have you ever participated in these Danish holiday traditions? Tell us all about it below!

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