1.juledag 2008

December 25, 2008

 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.”

A wild assortment of gingerbread cookies


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.

Cate and Eden dressed for the Christmas 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.

The shortest day of the year, in Copenhagen

(A typical Danish Winter mid-day.)

James scooping up some ris ala monde at our Solstice party

(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.

Cate in her nisse hat at churchAli, Cate, and Peter

(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.

Cate with our Advent wreath, and the cup, plate, and bowl for Santa and 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.

Eden and Cate opening their stockings

Cate, opening up pajamas for her American Girl doll, that matched the p.j.s she got from GigGig & Bompa

(Cate is so happy that her American Girl doll, Kit, will match her Christmas pajammies. Godt abejere GigGig!)

The girls playing a karaoke game for the XBox that Paul got for Rachelle.

(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.

Paul's bike, loaded with the Christmas goose, and other goodies


Christmas in Denmark: Tivoli

December 17, 2008

Friday night we went to Tivoli to see the lights that inspired Walt Disney to create his Main Street USA. After we saw the Nisse Hus (the nisse are not elves!), and the girls rode a few rides, we were chilled to the bone. So, we popped into one of the many pubs to drink hot chocolate and eat æbleskiver. We sat directly in front of the heater and were shortly very toasty and ready to brave the cold once again. Here’s one photo from the night. You can see more on Flikr (click here), including photos of Cate and her friend Johanna from Estonia participating in the Scandanavian Santa Lucia festival, where young girls dress in white, carry candles, and process around (a school, a mall, the streets, etc.) while singing the story of Lucia.

The largest full moon in 13 years rising above Tivoli

The largest full moon in 13 years rising above Tivoli

We had an earthquake!

December 16, 2008

At about 6:20 this morning, as I was avoiding getting up for work, Rachelle was startled awake by a bit of an earthquake here. It wasn’t very large, but it was enough to shake the bed and rattle the closet doors. At 4.7 or 4.8, this is the largest earthquake since measurments began in 1930. My officemate, Eva, has said that Denmark doesn’t have earthquakes. Technically, she’s still right… Thank You, Sweden!

Here’s more info on it from the US Geological Survey and a map of the location on Google Earth.

And here’s a few (translated) newspaper articles:

  • Politiken
  • Berlingske (including a great “Denmark Is the Epicenter of the World!” graphic)