Every December, I'm reminded more so than usual of my roots. We may celebrate the same holiday on both sides of the pond, but we do so in very different ways and several times each December, someone will ask me to tell them about Christmas in Denmark.
And so, I tell stories of waking up in the early morning as a child, during a time of year where it is dark about 18 hours a day - a kind of darkness unparalleled by anything I've experienced in Canada. I tell stories of eating my cornflakes while the advent candle burns down another day, of watching the Christmas calendar on Danish TV - every year, they make a different one and it's such a big deal that the entire country grinds to a halt at 6:30 p.m. to watch it. There are Danish Christmas lunches, with endless smorgasbords and equally endless supply of alcoholic beverages - they last hours and effectively shut down workplaces for the remainder of the day. We make Christmas ornaments - braided hearts, garlands and other handmade things for the tree - and Christmas decorations, using a lump of clay and sticking candles, evergreen branches and pine cones into the clay, to fill the house with light and the scents of green. We stick cloves in navel oranges, tie red silk ribbons around them and hang them everywhere. We have at least one gløgg party (my mother makes the best I've ever tasted) and we bake cookies and make homemade chocolate and I have to stop now or I'm going to book a ticket on the next plane home. It's all about the hygge.
This year, now that we have little ones to including Christmas, I have been thinking primarily of our way of doing things as seen through the eyes of a child and I have come to the conclusion that Danish Christmas is a month-long torture session. First, you build up the anticipation with all the different foods, the making of decorations and gifts, the Advent candle/calendars and then… the climax of it all:Christmas Eve.
The day would last forever - sometimes, we wouldn't decorate the tree until the afternoon of the 24th, which would occupy me for awhile. My father and I decorated it at first, later it was my father and my sister and I and later still, just us girls. When it was finished, we would call mor (who was usually in the kitchen at this time) and she would come to the living room, wearing her Christmas apron and tell us that it was the most beautiful tree she had ever seen. Then we would wait some more, until finally, after watching the last episode of the Christmas calendar, dinner was served. Is it just me, or do adults eat really slowly? One of the traditions in our family is that in between the main course and dessert, the kids get a small present - it nicely occupies them, while allowing the adults (so I see in retrospect) to enjoy the meal with limited cries of "aren't you done yet?". After indeterminable washing of dishes and making of coffee, we hold hands and dance around the Christmas tree in a circle, singing carols. And then, at long last, when we are in a feverpitch of anticipation, we open presents. One at the time, oohing and aahing over each one. See what I mean? Engineered to torture children. I can't wait to inflict… erm, pass on the traditions to Liam and Morgan!
I have terrific plans for my own Christmas holiday. There is a traditional dinner at mor’s on Sunday, getting together with friends throughout the week and best of all, the time between Christmas and New Year's is so wonderfully quiet and I plan on developing my own solitary hygge. I'm going to be watching movies, putter with great abandon, eat too much and read. For the purposes of the latter, I have acquired something trashy (which I mean in only the most positive sense of the word – reading a book by Jennifer Cruisie is the perfect little vacation), something edifying and something in between. It's going to be great.
What are you plans for the holidays?