|Advent's wreath with purple bands in Mellerup church 26 November 2011|
The Advent's Wreath
The Danish jul starts with an Advent's wreath with four candles, where the first candle is lit the first of four Sundays before Christmas Eve, 24. December. Adventus is Latin, meaning coming, and this custom is the countdown to Christmas, a custom which is marked in almost every Danish home. The Advent's custom had a single candle around the 1899-1900s, but it was replaced by a new fashion from Austria and Germany with a fourcandle-wreath, decorated with purple bands in the church. The custom was not introduced to the Danish homes until the 1930s. The wreath is traditionally bound in spruce, eventually decorated with pine cones and red berries and equipped with white candles and red bands for hanging up. The candles are lit one at a time and on the fourth Sunday all four candles are lit.
The Calendar Candle
The Advent's wreath is often supplemented with a calendar candle. The candle is divided in 24 fields, often decorated with pixy- and spruce motifs. The calendar candle is lit from 1. December and each day, where it is creating a cosy center around the breakfast table. It's usually the children's job to blow out the candle, before it reaches the next date. At the same time the windows of the house are decorated with candles and flowers, often poinsettia, hyacinths or Christmas cactus, and as December goes, the decoration is supplemented with baubles, crawling pixies and homemade decorations. These Christmas decorations are also used as a gift when people visit in the Christmas time. Usually there are moss, pine cones, spruce and candle arranged in a foundation of clay. But the decorations can be much more ingenious than this with new ideas each year. Kindergartens, schools, institutions and workplaces are decorated for Christmas - and in town squares in almost every Danish town is placed a huge Christmas tree, on the town square in Copenhagen the biggest of all.
Christmas lunch in firms
Beer and snaps are popular in the yearly Christmas lunch, which is celebrated in most Danish companies. Many hotels, inns and restaurants offer traditional Danish julefrokoster every day in December, and all canteens in the whole country are preoccupied with the important topic - what to serve for our Chrismas lunch this year? In a traditional Danish julefrokost are various dishes like salmon and herring and warm dishes like fish fillet, a Danish sausage called medisterpølse, meat balls, roast pork, apple bacon, fillet of pork, blood sausage, liver paté with bacon, chopped steak with fried eggs, roast duck and various cheese with fruit and a dessert, rice á la mande with cherry sauce. A sumptuous selection, which demands strong physics to survive the next period of Christmas culinary customs.
The children have one or more Christmas calendars, supplemented with electronic Christmas calendars in the Tv-channels. Many children have also a calender with 24 little Christmas gifts
Christmas Cards and Stamps
|christmas card collection in the window|
|Christmas stamp 2011|
A good tradition is the contact to family and friends by sending them a Christmas card - the card is equipped with special Christmas stamps besides the common stamps. The Christmas Stamp Foundation is one of the oldest charity organisations in Denmark - they publish a new Christmas stamp each year. The idea came from a Danish postmaster, Einar Hollbøll, who took initiative in 1904 to publish the first Christmas stamp. The motif is different each year, and everyone is free to send suggestions for the design of this year's Christmas stamp. The Danish queen Margrethe II was one of the designers. The surplus from the sale goes to Danish Christmas Stamp Homes, where 700 children with a difficult childhood are living on a free stay for a time each year.
According to the Catholic church Lucia is the saint of light (lux = light in Latin). She is celebrated between 12-13 december, especially at schools, old folk's homes and institutions all over the country, by parades with songs, glögg and Christmas cakes. According to the legend Lucia wore a garland of light upon her head, so her hands were free to illegally give other Christians food and drink, while they were hiding in the catacombs of Rome.
When Christmas is coming near the Christmas preparations increase significantly in most Danish homes, because people from childhood were "programmed" into the rituals, which are necessary to create a real old-fashioned Christmas. No doubt that Christmas has become commercialized, but the free, cosy Christmas preparations are still number one priority . In the last two weeks before Christmas big supplies of traditional Christmas baking like brown cakes, vanilla cakes, honey cakes, pepper nuts and *klejner are being baked, and the children are now the main producers in the kitchen together with Mom.
*klejner are baked a pot with hot lard
|Christmas trees ready for sale, Gl. Ry|
In December are made decorations for the Christmas tree, braided Christmas hearts, decorations in gold and silver and coloured paper, and the homemade Christmas candy is made with marzipan, soft nougat, nuts, almonds, dates, candied berries and chocolate. And now it is time to go out to buy the Christmas tree. When the custom began about 200 years ago, the usual Christmas tree was a spruce, but today the most popular tree for Christmas is the Norman type. It's needles are more bluish and soft and they last longer than the common spruce. Many find it a lovely tradition to go out and choose their tree and cut it down themselves.
If the tree has to be decorated according to traditions there must be a star in the top. There have to be garlands of little Danish flags, paper cones and hearts filled with candy, little toy instruments and "fairy's hair." Although the live candles are preferred on the Christmas tree, the electric light garlands are gaining ground because of the danger of fire. In the old good old days it was the head of the family, who was the leader of the Christmas tree project. The gorgeous Christmas tree was presented to the rest of the family by him, when the food had been consumed - and the children were so tired and sick with expectations that they did not get the optimum pleasure of this wonderful event.
Today it's common that the children participate actively in the decoration of the Christmas tree. It is first of all the children's feast. The time for the Christmas dinner has also been moved to an earlier time, so the children get the best opportunities for a wonderful Christmas. The great feast in Denmark is Christmas Evening 24. December. Most families have a light lunch in the morning and try to have the children get a little sleep at noon, but this is not always a success - the kids are too excited. Many families go to church in the afternoon before dinner. This tradition is more for maintaining the good and solemn Christmas atmosphere than for Christianity.
Most Danes have roast duck on Christmas evening, but roast goose or roast pork are close in popularity. The dinner has usually no first course, but the old tradition was to have rice porridge with butter in the middle and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar. The duck or the goose is served filled with prunes and apples and with accompaniment of red cabbage, beetroots, and white and sugar browned potatoes. The dessert is mostly rice á la mande with hot cherry sauce. A whole almond is hidden in the dessert, and he/she who finds the almond, gets an almond gift, bought for the occassion. If there are children present, it's not unusual to have more than one almond gift. No one must be sorry.
In the old days there was a tradition for giving the animals an extra treat of fodder on Christmas Evening. According to superstition they can talk on that evening, and it was not a good thing if they talked bad about their people.
Dancing around the Christmas Tree