Ok, so this is just a bit late to be posting about Christmas. It should be a more timely New Year look ahead post. But heyho, I still don’t have this blog business down to a pro standard so this one is about Christmas that I drafted, at Christmas but never got around to finishing! We had a lovely few weeks spending quality time with family and friends back in England. I also managed to finally edit my brother’s wedding video while grandparent babysitting was on-hand. It’s the first wedding film I’ve shot and edited and I now know why these people charge the amount they do….it’s massively time-consuming! But I loved it and it was so lovely to look back at their day and make something memorable for my whole family to look back on. I will also be posting my ‘2018’ look-ahead post in February, as that marks our one-year anniversary in Copenhagen, can you believe!
So let’s rewind back to December. Before we travelled back to England to celebrate Christmas, we tried to experience as much festivity Copenhagen had to offer and picked up some Danish traditions along the way. I really got into Christmas early because of it, and I loved the way Copenhagen lit up and became magical. I don’t mind feeling festive early when it’s about nice lights on the streets rather than the commercialised aspect. I didn’t feel Copenhagen became too commercial, except perhaps on Black Friday. And I completely went in on that this year, to make use of the discounts on some Royal Copenhagen and Normann Copenhagen gifts. If you haven’t discovered these brands, take a browse online, they have beautiful designs. Vipp is another of my favourites.
The first Friday of November: J-DAY
Danish Christmas season (juletid) kicks off pretty early, on the first Friday of November with J-Day. This is the day Tuborg Julebrygg is released, which is Tuborg’s Christmas beer. Ok, so this is commercialised from the set but it’s still a novelty to me. It’s a tradition that goes back to 1990. On J-Day, Tuborg deliver their Christmas beer to certain bars and pubs around Denmark, in Christmas-decorated trucks. There’s free beer, while it lasts, and everyone goes out and has a party to celebrate the start of feeling festive. This Christmas beer is only available for ten weeks a year but is still Carslberg’s fourth best-selling beer. Well ’tis the season to be merry… Rich was particularly gutted that we were away on the Friday this happened and didn’t get to witness the craze or get free beer. But he made up for it with a bulk buy and we took some back to England.
10th November: Morten’s Aften
My aunt messaged me on this day explaining how they were eating goose because of Morten’s Aften. This led me to discover this tradition, which is celebrated across other countries in Europe. Saint Martin of Tours was a Roman soldier born around the year 316. Legend has it, that he tried to avoid being ordained as a Bishop by hiding among a flock of geese. But the geese squawked and gave the game away. After this, Saint Marin asked people to kill and eat geese on that day each year. In Denmark, the tradition still continues and people therefore eat goose the evening before Saint Martin’s Day, called Morten’s Aften on 10th November. I don’t fully understand why Saint Martin didn’t want to become a bishop and why he decided it was the fault of the geese. But there you go, traditions are traditions! And I’m trying to think of some clever joke about my Dad who is a bishop, and of course Danish, but has nothing against geese. Nope, let’s move on…
Christmas light switch ons
This seemed to happen mainly around the first weekend of December. We missed any spectacle/event happening around it, but I have heard there were switch-on celebrations in the city centre, Tivoli and in Frederiksberg.
Saint Lucia Day
I stumbled across this celebration while on my way home from nursery with Lydia. Lots of families were heading into our local church, so I parked the pram and joined them in curiosity. The church was packed. At 5pm, the service started and in came a procession of girls wearing white robes and holding candles. They walked around the congregation singing a song about Saint Lucia. Lydia was transfixed. When the lights came on in the church, all she wanted was for it to go dark again and hear the singing. Then the vicar started explaining the story of Saint Lucia, the saint of light, which I didn’t really understand. But from reading around it, Saint Lucia’s Festival is something marked across Denmark, particularly in schools, on the night of 12th December. There was some more singing in the dark and the service finished by 5.30pm. When we went outside, two donkeys appeared, ready to give the children a ride around the church yard. It was a bit surreal, as the church is on a main road in the centre of Copenhagen and there we were, watching donkeys parading kids around in the dark with cars and bikes whizzing by. But it was a lovely way to end the day and feel like Christmas was on the way. Rich meanwhile, was at his work Christmas party in Prague having a different kind of celebration.
Having spent many Christmases in Sheffield, I was used to getting around all the markets in about two days. Copenhagen is something else. There are loads – far more than we could get through. I was eager to visit as many as we could, so when the first one opened, on 17th November, we were there; Hans Christian Andersen’s Julemarked. But not many other people were. It was cold, rainy and in Santa’s Grotto, there was no Santa, just his helper. Nevertheless, it was nice to get a taste of a Danish Christmas market and meet up with friends.
Undeterred, the following weekend, my friend Karli came to visit from England and we went to the markets in Kongens Nytorv and Nyhavn and sampled their food, gløgg and varm chokolade and sat on a sleigh with a reluctant Lydia.
We saved the best until last….Tivoli!! If you read my last post on Tivoli, you’ll know my love for this place. Christmas Tivoli is an absolute must-see. It is quite literally winter wonderland. According to the official Tivoli factsheet, there are around 1000 Christmas trees – 1000! It is so beautifully decorated with fake snow, twinkly lights and traditional market stalls among the theme park’s rides.
There’s also a gorgeous traditional Santa’s Grotto. There’s a long queue to get in here because Father Christmas really gives each child a lengthy chat while the official photographer captures the moment. You’re not allowed to take your own photo and it’s quite expensive to pay for the official one. Ours wasn’t worth getting. Despite this adorable image below, once Lydia finally got to meet Father Christmas, who was very convincing, none of this tacky red suit business – she got stage fright and ran away. The only photo captured, was of Lyds launching angrily out of my arms as I looked a bit of a plonker, smiling next to Father Christmas.
There are so many other smaller Christmas markets scattered around the streets of Copenhagen, like this one in the church below. There are also bigger markets we didn’t get to see in Elsinor and Carslberg. Next time…!
Glögg and æbleskiver
Christmas isn’t Christmas in Denmark, without gløgg and æbleskiver.
Gløgg is basically mulled wine with various spices, cardamom pods, cinnamon, raisins and sliced almonds. There are variations on this, with some including brandy, whiskey or honey but the general consensus is that it’s good and its better than plain old mulled wine. You can make your own at home, or buy something a spice packet like this below from The Flying Tiger, or get a pre-made bottle from supermarkets.
These are fried dough balls that you dip in jam and sugar. No apples (æbler) in them at all, despite the name! I discovered these at Lydia’s nursery when they held an afternoon for parents to celebrate Christmas by eating these with the children. I texted my aunt to see if this was a day to eat æbleskiver, which made her laugh because no, you can eat them anytime you like but they make a big appearance at Christmas time. And they aren’t usually presented on a toddler-smeared paper plate. They are nice but they’re not something I’d eat a lot of. I had to control my inner health-freak as I watched Lydia and all her friends devour them!
Ice skating at Frederiskberg Gardens
We rounded off our last December weekend in Copenhagen with a trip to the ice rink outside Frederiksberg Gardens, with some friends. The ice rink was up, when we first came to Copenhagen last February so it brought back fond memories. This was Lydia’s first time ice-skating. She was a little confused but seemed to enjoy it, or at least she enjoyed holding a plastic penguin. If you’re thinking of going, be aware, skate hire is cash only. 50kr for one hour, including for children. I think it was also 50kr for the penguin which is available for 30 minutes. And you need to hand over photo ID to get your hire. So it’s not the cheapest 30 minutes of entertainment but it was a lot of fun and as we were skating, it started snowing. What better way to round off our early Copenhagen Christmas!
So that’s our first almost-Christmas in Denmark complete. I think experiencing anything for the first time gives you a childlike wonder and it definitely made it that little bit more special this year.
Glædelig jul og godt nytår!