If you are staying in Denmark for Christmas this year, then you want to make the best out of it. Here are my 3 traditions to adopt and 3 traditions to avoid. Remember that the list is written with moms, babies and children in mind, I vaguely remember that my priorities were different once.
Rice Pudding for the "nisse" - Risengrød til nissen
You have noticed that Denmark is totally flooded by gnomes - nisse. They sleep the whole year but wake up during the winter and crave rice porridge with sugar and butter. Some of them even expect to be served “nisseøl/juleøl” which is a special Christmas beer that you can buy in the stores. It is sweet white malt beer (some translate it as root beer) and it is basically the type of beer Danes were used to before adopting pilsner style beer in 1850´s.
You are supposed to provide rice porridge and beer to the nisse every sunday because otherwise they will get angry and kill your cows. In the old days at least they did. Nowadays you risk being exposed to practical jokes. The best place to put the porridge is in the attic, that is where the nisse lives.
This harmless tradition is easily combinable with making dinner. I vote in favour.
Julefrokost - Christmas Party
Christmas Parties are very wild. Just so that you are ready. (Lots of alcohol, bums on copy machines, one night stands with a random colleague, vomiting - from what I heard.) So be aware that you cannot plan that both parents will go to a Christmas party the same day (weekend) because there is nothing worse than to take care of a baby or kid with a hangover. I like to party but I don't mind missing up on Julefrokost. It is just too much - I say avoid.
Christmas decorations with clay
December brings many new products to the grocery stores but one is curious in particular. It is “ler”. A package of clay. Combined with “kalenderlys” a calendar candle with numbers from one to 24 and some moss and decorations collected in the nearest forest you have an inexpensive activity for one of those long afternoons. Attention - make sure that there is a lot of space around the candle, you don't want to set fire to one of those - at the end of december - withered branches. But otherwise it is easy to clean up afterwards and it is an excellent tactile activity.
Go for it.
Dancing around the Christmas Tree
As I decided that candles and Christmas decorations are a tolerable risk, dancing around the christmas tree falls into the no-go category. Either you are using electric light and you have a good chance of pulling the cable of the lights and tearing the Christmas tree down, or you use real candles and you risk setting up fire in your clothes, hair, you name it. Unless you have a huge room so that you can dance at an appropriate distance. Wait, you live in Copenhagen, chances for a huge room are limited, even the bathroom looks like a cupboard. So a Christmas tree in the middle of a small room?
No thank you.
Gløgg and æbleskiver (fluffy pancakes)
I know I said no to the Christmas Party but the small version where you stay with gløgg (mulled wine with some almonds and raisins in it) and æbleskiver is great. You can prepare gløgg yourself or buy one in a store and warm it up and the same goes with those lovely small pancake-like balls that you usually serve with some marmalade and sugar - flormelis.
If you are breastfeeding you try alcohol free gløgg. I am not an expert in alcohol-free anything, but Cecilia From Copenhagen Cakes made a big test a few years ago and she recommends Blombergs Alkoholfri Glögg.
If you want the real experience then you can consider reading on alcohol and breastfeeding from very trusted source of breastfeeding information Kellymom.com. According to this article occasional use of alcohol (1-2 drinks) does not appear to be harmful to the nursing baby. Please read it before drinking.
Gløgg and æbleskiver - I say enjoy!
Pakke Gaver - Small presents for every day in December
Some kids get a small present every day. It might be fun. But isn't it too much? Will they still want presents when it finally is Christmas? And will it not cost you a fortune plus a lot of time wrapping (well I hate it). If you want something special for everyday then do something that doesn't require wrapping up and doesn't add new objects to the small apartment.
This tradition has a total ban in my home.
One extra present I can tolerate. That is for the one who finds a whole almond in their risalamande, creamy rice porridge with chopped almonds. This is served as a desert for the Christmas dinner and is delicious with a cherry sauce that you again can buy in every grocery store. Searching for the almond is exciting and the porridge is delicious. In our family we make the almond present the only present that the adults get. Yes, we only gave presents under the Christmas tree for the children. It is enough. And who needs new socks anyways.
I found a recipe for Risalamande by Scandinavian Standard and the article also includes how to behave when you find the almond.
Non-materialistic, tasteful and exciting tradition - my favourite!
motherhood guide for international women in Copenhagen
(breastfeeding and babywearing consultant and postpartum doula)