Living In An Expat World: High season for hygge

Christmas time is upon us – a time when the Danes go all in on ‘hygge’! So in accordance with the spirit of the season, I will lay off the political subjects in this column and just share how I experience Christmas in Denmark.

Heavy hygge artillery
For many expats this is the perfect opportunity to experience Danish hygge as Christmas is truly the high season of hygge. The Danes bring out all the heavy hygge artillery: they make candle decorations, bake æbleskiver (Danish donuts) and pebernødder (pebernut cookies), drink gløgg (mulled wine), spoil the children with candy and presents, and attend julefrokoster (Christmas lunch) with colleagues and friends.

I have attended many Christmas lunches at the companies in International Community’s office community – and there is no need to truly worry if you are invited to a julefrokost for the first time this year.

Out vile schnapps
However, I have a little warning for you: please be prepared that schnapps, a foul-tasting transparent Danish liquor made of potatoes, and pork prepared in ten ways are often part of the menu.

There might be a little group pressure to at least taste one schnapps, and if you decide to cave in, I recommend that you just take it as a shot. If you only drink some of it, you might get a few mocking comments from your colleagues – and why save anything that foul-tasting anyway. Besides the schnapps, Christmas lunches are all about having a good time with your colleagues in informal settings.

Avoiding no-nos
Since I am married to a Dane, I have also been to Danish Christmas celebrations in a family setting. I soon found out that there are many unwritten rules and they can be hard to pinpoint and follow.

As I wanted to establish and maintain good relations with my mother-in-law, I prepared myself by reading about the traditions. I also made up signals, such as a certain look, a little nod or an almost unnoticeable point of the finger that my husband could throw in my direction, if I was on the verge of a big ‘no-no’ that would spoil the hygge.

Heaven for kids
It’s hard not to notice that Christmas is heaven for kids. For instance, from December 1 to 24, it’s very easy for many Danes to get them out of bed as many of them will receive a small present every day.

However, despite the great side-effect of having a happy kid jumping out of bed, it is one of the few Christmas traditions I haven’t adopted. Why waste money on things that just end up in the trash after a few days? Otherwise I’m a great fan of the high season for hygge and wish you a merry Danish Christmas.