The winter holidays are an important part of the Danish culture and you’ll see everybody celebrating Christmas, as well as partying for the New Year’s celebration like there’s no tomorrow.
Despite the really cold weather, being in Denmark during this time of the year is truly spectacular. All houses and shops are decorated for Christmas, you usually have plenty of snow and the people are happy and jolly (and wine abounds too).
But today we’re not focusing on the fun part – like dating Danish women – and instead we’re looking at how the winter holidays are traditionally celebrated in Denmark. There’s a lot to learn, so read on!
How is Christmas celebrated in Denmark?
If you’re in Denmark by the start of December, you’re sure to find the beginnings of the Christmas celebration. It kicks off on December 1st which is the start of Advent.
(I have to admit that in recent years, some start decorating in mid-December. I’m looking at you, supermarkets!)
Anyway, the 1st of Decembers is marked by a Julekalendar or a Gavekalendar where small gifts or treats are given and exchanged daily or on each of the four Sundays during the Advent.
Yes, this is where the Advent calendars are taken to a new level. I told you it pays to be in Denmark during the winter holidays!
Parents or grandparents usually present these delights to kids, but there’s no stopping the adults from sharing. It’s actually becoming more and more common between partners and even at work.
The Advent season is also marked by countdowns to the big day (Christmas, of course!) with candle calendars.
A candle is lit on each day of the 24-days. To emphasize how important this Danish tradition is, most TV stations have their own Julekalendar series.
It is a 24-episode Christmas special from day one to day 24 in December. If you want to impress your Danish friends, make sure to read my article on how to say Merry Christmas in Danish.
This brings us to the day (and night!) before Christmas! On the 24th day, Juleaften, families attend the Christmas Eve church service. The festivities begin after with a sumptuous dinner shared by the family.
Get ready for a gastronomic treat of roasted meat, whether pork, goose, or duck. This is served with the traditional sweet potato sides or boiled potato plus some cabbage and rich brown gravy.
After the main meal comes the risamalande, a traditional Danish dessert. Dig into the chilled rice pudding served with a warm cherry sauce reduction.
The goal is not only to eat the tasty treat but to find the whole almond hidden in your dessert. When you find the almond, you are entitled to receive a small token as a gift.
You can read more about mouth-watering, traditional Danish foods in my previous article.
The celebrations go well into the night with the singing of traditional Danish Christmas carols around the tree.
Expect a tall glass of gløgg, which is a traditional mulled wine, spiced to perfection and served with almonds and raisins that you need to fish out with a spoon as you chug along.
You might also find homemade ebelskivers, powdered sugar, and jam to go along with it on the side.
The Danish also have Santa Claus or Julemanden, so expect the little ones to hit the hay by midnight. Christmas morning means gathering around the Christmas tree to open gifts.
Expect to join a Julefrokost which a Christmas Lunch hosted by friends or local communities. If you’re lucky, you might get invited to a family lunch or familiejulefrokost.
Danish Christmas tables are laden with warm and cold meats, lots of seafood dishes, and plenty of cheeses, fruit, and risamalande. It’s truly spectacular, as you can probably tell from the photos and my details.
How do Danish people celebrate the New Year (New Year’s Eve party)?
Celebrating New Year in Denmark is also an exciting event. Yes, there are fireworks at the stroke of midnight, like everywhere else, but there’s much more to this celebration.
Expect someone to ask you to jump from any raised platform – a chair, a step – even a table! Just don’t go to high, especially if you had too much glogg (which is still aplenty).
This is for good luck in the new year. Expect the same sumptuous spread to be prepared for New Year’s meals but the Kransekage is the icing on the cake – literally.
This is the iconic Danish New Year’s Eve dessert which is a cake shaped like rings, stacked atop each other to form a cone. It is covered with rich white frosting and is served after midnight with champagne.
Then finally, we need to raise our glasses whenever we hear “Skål” and toast to good health and cheer during the holidays. And this is how you enter the new year, which will hopefully be much better than the one before. At least this is my wish for you!
Danish people love the winter times and they have amazing celebrations for Christmas (and the days leading to Christmas), as well as for the New Year’s Eve party.
You know now the most important part about these celebrations in Denmark, but if you know any interesting traditions that I forgot to mention, don’t hesitate to let us all know by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below.