During the year there is a phenomenon in Denmark called ‘Hygge’, which I define as the three Cs: cosiness, conviviality and companionship.
All year round the Danes love hygge, and then in December, something happens. The hygge stops and ‘Julehygge’ begins.
Hygge requires meeting friends for a drink and lighting a candle, but in December you are surrounded by people – the ones you love – and the other ones. Candles burn to the point of suffocation, with an Advent Candle measured and snuffed out on a daily basis.
Julehygge consists of julemad, julebryg, julepynt, julegaver, julenisser, julesang, juleschnapps and the firm’s Christmas party, which is known as the julefrokost. These office parties involve all of the above to excess, and often end a day or a week later. Yes, julehygge is hygge times ten!
Let’s start with julesang – the first time you hear ‘Last Christmas’ or ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ on your car radio, you get a warm glow, don’t you? But 200 times later, you want to scream ‘Driving mad for Christmas!’, and as you’re about to smash the radio, you hear the Danish julesang ‘Det’ jul, det’ cool, det nu man hygger sig bedst’.
Next up: julegaver. Isn’t it lovely to buy presents for people? Except at Christmas, when it is living hell! You also have to hone your acting skills when you receive your presents. “OH! A bar of soap! Just what I wanted!” or “A SCARF!! Thank you SO much. I don’t have a single scarf in my cupboard.” Whilst you check carefully for the refund ticket.
I perform my Crazy Christmas show as part of the annual julemarket at Tivoli where wooden huts with fake smoke sell overpriced woolly hats and julepynt. It is the one time of the year when you don’t mind your child sitting on the lap of a strange bearded man and asking him for treats. (Unless he’s the child’s father!)
And then there is julemad. To celebrate the birth of Jesus we are expected to eat a lot of food. Oddly enough, it is not food we would necessarily choose to eat. Who really likes turkey or goose? To make it edible, it is drowned in sauce and stuffed with something chewy. The bird is then served with potatoes cooked in sticky caramel and Brussel sprouts – otherwise known as fart grenades from Belgium.
For juledessert the Danes eat ‘ris à l’amande’ – lumpy rice pudding with nuts, splattered with hot glutinous cherry sauce. To make you eat it, they invented a competition. The first one who finds the whole almond gets a prize. If the person who finds the almond has a cruel streak, he waits until the entire bowl is finished before he reveals the prize-winning nut. This dessert is sometimes washed down with gløgg, a boiled, sickly-sweet wine that is wisely never served the rest of the year.
Oh how the Danes love julehygge! And compared to New Year hygge – consisting of resolutions to stop drinking, get slim and work harder – julehygge is indeed mega-hyggeligt!