Christmas Time (Almost)

dec-2008-194I smell like a smoked sausage. Sunday afternoon was spent outside in our garden carolling, eating mince-pies, drinking mulled wine and huddling in front of little wood burners. It was very, very enjoyable and I hope it will turn into a tradition as it was a good way to celebrate Winter solstice begin the Christmas holidays. I was asked by some of my Scottish friends how Danes celebrate Christmas.

The most important difference is the actual date: we celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. Most of December 24 will consist of preparing food, watching From All of Us (dubbed into Danish), attending church and then around 6pm sit down for the traditional meal. Obviously the meal will differ slightly from family to family, but we usually have roasted pork with crackling, roasted duck with prune and apple stuffing, caramelised potatoes, boiled potatoes, gravy, stewed red cabbage and halved apples with redcurrant jelly. David is a huge fan of the Danish Christmas dessert: ris ala mande: it is basically cold rice pudding mixed with vanilla-infused whipped cream and chopped almonds. It is served with hot cherry sauce. The pudding has a tiny game attatched to it: You put in one whole almond and whoever finds the almond gets a special present. After the meal people gather around the decorated Christmas tree, the (real!) candles are lit and you dance around it singing a mixture of psalms, traditional folk songs and a few recent Christmas songs. One of my personal favourites is the psalm Julen Har Bragt Velsignet Bud (Christmas Has Brought Us Blessed News). And then it is time for presents.

I think one of the biggest cultural differences for me is how the time up to Christmas is spent. In Denmark I was used to people gathering to bake or make candy together. You'd get together with friends or family to make decorations out of paper, branches and clay. The four Sundays leading up to Christmas would be marked by lighting candles and exchanging small presents. I have marked these traditions, of course, but it feels a bit odd when you are the only one excited by weaving Christmas hearts (such as the ones you can see in the photo of our tree), thinking about baking (which I actually didn't manage this year) or marking the Christmas Sundays. I have delighted in following the Christmas advent calender aimed at Danes living abroad, mind.

Tomorrow's blog will be all about knitting. Consider yourself warned. For now, let me leave you with a collection of the worst Christmas songs ever created. Enjoy.