Winter in Denmark is often cold and dark. At winter solstice, we only get just over 7 hours of sunshine. There is a Danish word, hygge, which roughly translates to cosiness. But it actually means a bit more than that. It’s actually a way of life. Instead of being cooped up inside because we cannot go outside, we choose to be inside and cosy up. It’s just a simple change of perspective but incredibly empowering. No longer are we a prisoner of the weather, we take charge over it.

Christmas is also a weird time in Denmark. Not a lot of Danes go to church anymore, yet Christmas and the traditions around it are still lovingly celebrated. One such tradition is julestue, which I guess translates to Christmas celebration. It’s an event where people gather around making julepynt (Christmas decoration) for the juletræ (Christmas tree), while drinking gløgg (mulled wine) and eating æbleskiver (literally apple slices, but they are actually round pancakes served with jam and powdered sugar).

I went to one of these julestue events organised by the University of Copenhagen’s International Staff Mobility. It was a fun event. We made julehjerter (Christmas hearts), which is a very Danish thing to do. They are basically paper baskets that one weaves out of paper, which one then hangs on the Christmas tree and fill with goodies.

The Christmas hearts I made before I got bored and started chatting with people instead.
The Christmas tree that we decorated.

“Christmas in Danish”

Two weeks ago I attended University of Copenhagen International Staff Mobility‘s (ISM’s) “Christmas in Danish” event. It was a fun initiative of the ISM to help the international staff experience how Christmas is celebrated in Denmark. Naturally, we had to make traditional Danish Christmas decorations and have traditional Danish Christmas meal.

The first thing we had to do was to make julestjerne (Froebel star) and julehjerte (pleated Christmas hearts) while having pebernødder (literally means pepper nuts, but it contains neither pepper nor nuts). I was actually not at the event yet when this was happening, as I was at my Danish class.

By the time I get to the event, the main meal was just about to start. The traditional Danish Christmas meal consists of roast duck, caramelised potatoes, rødkål (pickled red cabbage), and risalamande (rice pudding). I don’t remember if æbleskiver (round pancakes served with jam) was served as well at the event. If it was, then I must have missed it.

Risalamande is an interesting dish. Nowadays it is cooked in a large batch with one (or a few) almonds hidden inside it. Whoever finds the almond wins a present. I really don’t like it, though. I guess it’s because I am used to having rice as a main dish, that having it served as dessert just doesn’t sit well with me.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable occasion. A good meal with good company. The only thing I didn’t like was the guest speaker. We had a French-Danish comedian, Thierry Geoffroy, whose humour I simply do not get. Everyone else seemed to enjoy his humour, but I simply cringed. Oh well, can’t have everything perfect, I guess.