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Christmas 2018 and 2019

Christmas in Denmark is known as “Jul,” which is where we get the English term “Yuletide” from in reference to the Christmas season.

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Jul extends from at or near the beginning of December and runs to December 26th or even into January. The exact dates kept vary somewhat, but it is a mid-winter season of cheer that lasts for approximately one month.

The most significant day of Jul is Christmas Eve since Danes always celebrate holidays the day before. December 25th, Christmas Day, and December 26th, “Second Christmas,” are also important.

Around three-quarters of Danes belong to the Church of Denmark, which a Lutheran church. Nonetheless, Denmark is a very secularised nation. This was revealed startlingly in a 2010 survey that showed only 28 percent of Denmark’s population believed in the existence of God. However, Danes will keep up the Jul season regardless of their religious leanings, for it is ingrained in their culture and is as much about feasting and family gatherings as anything else.

In spite of the secularism, however, around a third of Danes attend special church services on or around Christmas. The Christmas Eve service is normally at 4pm and is a time to listen again to the Biblical Christmas story in Luke Chapter Two. Services will also be held on Christmas Day and on December 26th.

Santa Claus is known in Denmark as “Julemaden” (the Yule Man). He has his sleigh and reindeer, but he lives in Greenland instead of at the North Pole. He does not fly to your house and go down the chimney but knocks on the door and gives kids presents in person. His elves are called “julenisser” and are thought to live secretly in old barns and dusty attics. Rice pudding, rather than cookies, is the favorite dish of the Julemaden and his nisser, and children often leave this and other goodies out for the expected visitors on Christmas Eve.

Nisser are also found as cardboard decorations in many Danish homes, along with “Yule hearts,” which are often made from coloured paper as a family Christmas project. There will also be Christmas trees, lights, and more “usual” Christmas decor as well.

Another tradition in Denmark is that of the Advent calendar. Some of them designate a different small gift for weeks on end in the countdown to Christmas Eve. Others have a gift only on the four Sundays before Christmas, which are part of the liturgical Advent season.

Food is a central aspect of any Danish Christmas. Even the animals get to feast, for many Danes go on walks in the park just to feed any birds, squirrels, or other animals they chance to meet. As for people, they typically eat three to four special “Yule lunches” in the run up to Christmas Eve, besides larger “Family Yule lunches” on the 25th and 26th of December.

The main festive meal, however, is dinner on Christmas Eve. The feast is large indeed, involving such dishes as turkey, duck, goose, roast pork, potatoes and gravy, cabbage, rice pudding, and much more. After dinner, it is time to open the presents and sing around the Christmas tree, followed by yet more snacking.

Christmas Activities

Should you visit Denmark for the Yuletide, some things to do include:

  • Tour Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens Christmas market, along with other Christmas markets, as do many other tourists. Also in Copenhagen, you can ice skate for free at Frederiksberg Runddel or view the elaborate Jul tables on display inside the Royal Copenhagen store.
  • Besides festive lunches and Christmas Eve dinner, Danes snack all through the Yuletide. Be sure to join in. Look for sugar-glazed almonds, candied apples, Danish pancakes, dried fruits and nuts, cakes, various types of Danish cookies, and marzipan sweets with chocolate nougat.
  • If you wish, try the Danish drink known as “Glogg.” Glogg is a kind of mulled wine, but it comes in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions nowadays. It is heavily spiced and often has raisins in it. It is served hot to fight the winter chill.

Denmark has many unique Christmas traditions that the tourist will be introduced to should he visit the country during “Jul.”