I’m Danish and came to the UK in the mid 80’s working for an oil company, where I met my husband. The oil business took us to New Zealand and then Poland and by the time we first moved to the beautiful Yorkshire we had two girls and when we left for Bath seven years later, we had another girl and I had worked for Anita Massarella Design Couture for some years.
Although, I always have been knitting, sewing and creating things, I never visualised myself working for a couture fashion designer being surrounded by beautiful embellished fabrics, pure silks and French laces for the bride to be.
Now seventeen years later I have been back at Anita’s for a year, settled back into Yorkshire with a good network of friends and a brilliant job. The children are all grown up and I’m very privileged to have two beautiful grandchildren.
Being Danish I have always tried to keep some of the traditions and this year will be no different. I will start with an insight into what Christmas in Denmark is all about and two words comes to mind, ‘hygge’ and family.
‘Hygge’ a Danish word that describes the feeling of being cosy, comfortable and at peace with the world. It is almost impossible to translate into English, but this concept might explain why Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world.
Christmas starts with advent, the 4th Sunday before Christmas. To represent this, you usually have a wreath with four candles and will light a candle every Sunday in the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve.
On 1st December the advent calendar and an advent candle will start the countdown to Christmas, often you will have a ‘pakkekalender’, an advent calendar with small gifts for every day. Most people will start decorating their homes with candles and lights.
Throughout December you will bake special Christmas butter cookies, ginger bread biscuits, having friends and family round for gløgg (mulled wine) and æbleskiver (pancake balls with jam and icing sugar) and perhaps have a Christmas workshop making tree and other decorations.
Traditionally, you will decorate the tree on 23rd December and celebrate on the 24th December with a dinner in the evening which is based around duck, goose or roast pork served with caramelised potatoes and red cabbage and seasonal vegetables followed by ris á la mande, a special kind of rice pudding made with vanilla, almonds and whipped cream. All but one almond is chopped into pieces. The person who finds the whole almond gets a small present of chocolate or a toy.
After the meal the candles on the Christmas tree are lit, people may dance around the tree, holding hands and singing carols and the Christmas presents will be given out.
The Christmas tree is decorated with baubles, handmade paper hearts and decorations handed down through generations and has' a gold or silver star on the top.
Christmas Day is spent with more extended family and you celebrate with ‘det store kolde bord’ which is more known here as a smorgasbord - open sandwiches with a variety of herrings, cold meats and a selection of small warm dishes - enjoyed with rye bread, beers and aquavit.
Boxing Day you will spend with the other part of the family or friends.
This year it will be a very special Christmas, for the first time in many years we are all going to be together, no one travelling, no one on the other side of the world, even granny will be here.
I will be spending Christmas at my eldest daughter Camilla's with her husband and children. Louisa and her boyfriend and Amelia will be there as well, I’m so looking forward to it. The tree will have been decorated a long time ago and the house will be lit up with 100’s of lights inside and out. We will have to be prepared so we don’t forget to put out the carrots for the reindeer and a mince pie for Father Christmas, I simply can’t wait.
It will be particularly special this year as my mother in law, who normally always takes herself out of the equation when it comes to Christmas, has decided to stay in the UK. This year we will kick off with Granny celebrating her 90th birthday on 23rd December. It will be held at my nephew’s house. All of my husband’s family, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will be together, which is a rare occasion.
On Christmas Eve we will have a traditional Danish Christmas with roast duck and roast pork followed by the almond game. After dinner we will open presents from the family in Denmark.
Christmas Day we will do it, and have always done it, the British way - I’m sure we will be up at the crack of dawn with the children and will start preparing lunch straight after breakfast. Whilst the turkey is cooking, we will take the dogs out for a long walk, building up an appetite.
Have a lovely and enjoyable December, light a candle and put up some fairy lights to brighten up the darker days. It won’t be long when the days will be lighter again.
Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas - Glædelig Jul.