Xmas in Denmark: The inn crowd

Why nobody’s ever an outsider at Christmas in Denmark

Christmas in Denmark begins on the first Sunday of advent. No, scratch that … Christmas in Denmark begins on J-Dag, the launch of Tuborg’s Christmas beer in early November. No scratch that … Christmas in Denmark begins with the Santa Claus conference in Bakken … in July. 

Now wait a moment! The Danish words for July and Christmas are Juli and Jul. The latter is derived from yule, the Norse word for wheel, and on its annual axle, Juli is due south of Jul. Are you beginning to see a pattern here?

Especially as Jul is the central warmth from which all hygge emanates. For their Christmas feast, the Danes gather their very fondest around the cosy festive glow. It’s the same spirit evoked when escaping a thunderstorm on a balmy July evening.

Magic of hygge
What makes the Danish Christmas so special is the way everyone contributes. You can’t just light a few candles, switch on the Carol Channel, roll out some tinsel and Abracadabra! 

Every guest to the Christmas feast is engaged in the effort to ensure everything runs smoothly on the big day they gather together in the knowledge that everyone has contributed.

And even if they spend most of the afternoon of December 24 with their feet up watching the festive Disney show and the umpteen final episodes of the julekalender shows, they’re still contributing to the atmosphere, providing they’re in good spirits.

That’s the magic of hygge!

Rites of childhood 
But let’s not forget the efforts of everyone in the build-up to the big day.

The younger children will have made many of the decorations in their classrooms, which since mid-November have more resembled Santa workshops. 

A big final push, normally on one of the final evenings of the school year, involves their parents and other siblings.

And then on the big day itself, they take on the arduous post-dinner task of handing out the legions of presents assembled under the Christmas tree (most of which are for them). 

Sure, it doesn’t help that they can’t yet read, but by this point most of the adults are too drunk to care that it’s taking two and a half hours.

Parenting roles
For Mum and Dad, December 24 is the culmination of a month’s worth of shopping, decorating and food preparation. And that’s just the non-spiritual element.

Taking the children to Christmas shows, markets and performances underline the momentousness of the month. Carol and church services provide room for contemplation. And a rendition of ‘Handel’s Messiah’ is the icing on the cake.

After all, there’s something religious about every element of the Danish Christmas: from rituals such as the sacrifice of the tree to celebrate Christ’s birth, to the advanced preparation of food to ensure we can dedicate our time to a bigger cause. 

Crucial cameo roles
And don’t forget the bit-players, whether it’s Big sis or Big Bro, or Little Sis or Bro who’s now Tante/Faster/Moster or Onkel/Farbror/Morbror (depending on who’s asking normally).

They might have less to do, but there are still a few highly critical roles, like dressing up as Santa. After all, Dad’s too obvious and Farfar/Farmor a little unsteady on his feet.

And providing some X Factor when the family has linked hands and are dancing around the Christmas tree. Somebody needs to provide some verve and lead the way into every nook and cranny of the house!

The designated chefs only have a limited number of hands, after all, so from decorating the tree to picking up Olemor from the care-home, there are plenty of odd-jobs to do. 

Yes, it’s safe to say that nobody will experience a Danish Christmas without feeling they’ve contributed.

“My father is from Copenhagen and he lived there until he was in his late 20s. We always grew up with a lot of Danish culture at home. My mother is Jewish but we always celebrated Christmas because we loved the traditions of Danish Christmas.” – Scarlett Johansson

“Imagine that. I haven’t had this much fun since Yoko and I danced around a Danish Christmas tree in 1970.” – John Lennon

“A Danish Christmas is magnificent, quite unforgettably magnificent.” 

H C Andersen

“Denmark is like a big family of people.”

– Susanne Bier

“All year round the Danes love hygge, and then in December, something happens. The hygge stops and ‘Julehygge’ begins. Julehygge consists of julemad, julebryg, julepynt, julegaver, julenisser, julesang, juleschnapps and the firm’s Christmas party, which is known as the julefrokost. Yes, julehygge is hygge times ten!”

Vivienne McKee

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