In Denmark, the Christmas celebrations begin with Advent. In each Sunday in Advent, each one of the four candles are lit on the Advent wreath, that is traditionally made here out of fine spruce twigs and cuttings. On each Sunday in Advent, guests are invited to join in the lighting of the candles on the Advent crown. Drinks are kept for all, though alcoholic beverages are strictly for adults who usually have a warming mixture of red wine, spices and raisins. Kids may drink the juice of some sweet fruit, such as strawberry. Also kept are small cakes of batter usually baked in special pans, and dusted with icing sugar. This is something that everybody loves to have.
In the weeks leading to the Christmas Eve, Danish families set up Christmas trees in their homes and decorate them in the most beautiful manner. The trees, commonly spruce, are usually decorated with a silver or gold star on the top (never an angel), national flags, cornets with fruit, candies or cookies, small toy music instruments, tin foil strips and the like. Children help their parents in decorating the Christmas tree and also the interiors.
Here, the main Christmas celebration is on December 24(Christmas Eve). But the festive atmosphere is quite apparent even on the day before, i.e 23rd December. In Denmark, this day is popularly called “Lille Juleaften” (Little Christmas Eve) and is a time for family get-togethers and meeting with friends. In Denmark, children believe that their presents are brought by the ‘Julemanden’ (which means ‘Christmas Man’). He looks very similar to Santa Claus and also travels with a sleigh and reindeer. He lives in Greenland, likes rice pudding and is helped by ‘nisser’ which are like elves.
Adults relish a cup of hot glögg (hot wine boiled with raisins, nuts and spices) while children munch on “æbleskiver” (a special kind of doughnut with icing sugar, jam or maple syrup). The “Lille Juleaften” menu typically includes the delicious “risengrod” (rice boiled with milk and cinnamon) and “hvidtol” (malt beer). Gifts are often exchanged on this day.
On Christmas Eve, the get-togethers continue and so does the feasting. Cookies and hot chocolate are lapped up by kids while adults pour glogg down their throats. One of the main attractions of Christmas Eve is the lighting of the Christmas tree. The Christmas Eve dinner traditionally includes such dishes as
roast pork, roast duck or roast goose with potatoes, red cabbage and gravy. Dessert is usually rice pudding served with a cherry sauce. Traditionally, an almond is hidden inside the dessert which one has to find to recieve a small gift. The meal over, family members gather around the Christmas tree to sing Christmas carols and dance hand in hand around the tree. Then one of the assembled children is chosen to select the wrapped presents, that are already kept under the Christmas tree, and hand them over to the other family members – one at a time – so that everyone may have the pleasure of watching what the others got.
Christmas Day(December 25th) is a rather quiet time and is usually a day to be spent in the company of close friends and family members. The Christmas lunch typically includes dishes consisting of cold cuts and different types of fish, along with Aquavit for the adults. Everyone wishes “Glaedelig Jul“(Merry Christmas in Danish) to each other on Christmas Day.