Christmas in Denmark started four weeks ago on the first day of Advent, when the lights strung across the streets on garland a week before they were finally turned on. It makes the very short days more bearable to see the streets warmly lit, and candles in the windows of most apartments. Stores, which are usually closed on Sundays stay open an extra day so people can purchase presents. Most Danish children get a present every day, but we told the kids they would have to chose between that or getting a stocking. They chose stocking, hands down! Instead we doled out the Christmas books and videos a few at time so they had something “new” to look forward to M,W, F until school was out. (Unfortunately Rachelle turned on our American VCR when it wasn’t plugged into a transformer and it blew up! So no watching the videos for us yet!)
In Denmark, family and friends gather for julefrokost (Christmas lunch), whichis many courses and involves a lot of fish and often even more snaps or aquavit. Rachelle was fortunate enough to be invited to Julefrokost at The Diplomat in the American Embassy, where her friend‘s husband works as the chef! It’s rare for Danes to think of inviting newcomers to thier holiday events, so this was a very special opportunity. (By the way, Danish are very homogenous culturally — so there is no saying “Happy Holidays”. It’s “Christmas” and that is that.”
Rachelle & the girls have been making cookies most of the month: gingerbread men (try finding molasses in Denmark!), hazelnut sandwiches filled with Nutella, apricot foldovers, lemon snaps, chocolate-chocolate chip cranberry, and Italian anise cookies. In addition to all this cookie baking, Rachelle has been baking muffins or bread at least twice a week as an incentive to get the kids to wake up in the morning. It’s hard to wake up and walk to school in the dark!
On the third Sunday of Advent, the girls were in a Christmas pagent at church. Eden was one of the narrators, and Cate was Gabriel. She stood under the canopy in the round pulpit, on a stool so she could be seen over the lectern. We have photos and videos and will get them to the grandparentals soon. Here the girls are dressed for the pagent.
On December 21st, winter solstice, we had a party. Even though the sun rose at 8:37am and set at 3:38pm, we had some blue sky and sun. Here’s a photo from our balcony at about 2pm. Our party theme was “Danish is December” and we made classic Danish Christmas crafts: paper stars, folded heart baskets, marzipan pigs, and tiny nisser ornaments.
(A typical Danish Winter mid-day.)
(Eden, James, and Cate scoop up the rise allemand, hoping to get the one whole almond and win the prize. This dish is topped with warm cherry sauce.)
Danes typically celebrate Christmas on juleaften (Christmas eve), by lighting candles on, and singing songs around, their (bone dry) Christmas trees. We went to a church service in the morning, and then in the evening we went to some friends, the Marshes, for fondue and–suprise! a play put on by the Marsh children. Ali and Peter, who are here from Seattle for the year, are at the girls school. We rode the four blocks home on our bikes, singing Christmas carols and peering in all the hygglie windows.
(Silly Nisser! Trix are for kids! Cate at church and with Ali and Peter at our party.)
The girls added to their tradition of putting out milk and cookies for Santa by setting out a boll of ris ala monde (a traditional Scandanavian dessert of rice, cream, and almonds topped with cherry preserves) for the nisse.
(Christmas morning ’round the Advent wreath with our wooden Nativity set from Uncle Shane. Yes, it was still dark out!)
This morning, the girls could hardly contain themselves, and got us out of bed at 7am. We had a wonderful time opening up stockings, and presents from each other, and presents airmailed from America by grandparents, and cousins, and great aunts, and gifts shipped by friends in Canada.
(Cate is so happy that her American Girl doll, Kit, will match her Christmas pajammies. Godt abejere GigGig!)
(Eden and Mom belt it out on Mom’s new karoke game.)
Tomorrow, on 2.juledag, we’re having some friends over for our first Christmas goose. (Rumor is, it tastes like chicken!). While I would have liked to replay the scene from A Christmas Carol where Bob Cratchet walks home with the goose slung over his shoulder, its neck waving back and forth as he stops for a few roasted chestnuts, I had to settle for a frozen goose loaded on my bike. As all shops are closed from December 24th through 26th, we had to stock up, using the the balcony as a secondary refridgerator for the overflow.