I hope that this Christmas fills you with joy and memories to fill you up for the next year.
Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve in Denmark and is called Juleaften. People are busy buying present, parents are preparing dinner and secretly decorating the Christmas tree using homemade decorations made from wood and straw, while the children are extremely excited waiting for the evening to arrive, only being allowed to see the tree before dinner Some families attend the Christmas Mass before dinner enjoying the tradition and Christmas spirit of gathering together to sing Danish Christmas carols. They return home to their dinner begging with rice pudding (“risengrød”)that holds a magic almond inside, the finder of which wins a prize of chocolate or marzipan. The traditional meal consists of duck or goose (sometimes pork with crackling), red cabbage and browned (caramelised) potatoes with cranberry jam. Dessert consists of fried pastries, cakes and cinnamon-laced rice pudding called Grod. After Dinner the tree is lit up and the family sing carols and hymns and dance around the tree, when the children have had enough of this it is time to open the gifts. Usually a child is chosen to pass the gifts out one at a time, with everyone watching each gift unwrapped. Once the last gift is unwrapped it is time for fresh fruit, cookies, candy and coffee.
This was also the night that animals were able to talk, people did not want the animals to speak badly about them so giving animals a treat hopefully appeased them. In olden times the family placed dishes of seeds outside for the wild birds and gave treats to the animals. Some families still continue this tradition and will go for a walk either in the garden, park or forest handing out treats for the animals, not forgetting to place a bowl of rice pudding out to appease the Christmas elves called Julenisse or Nisse.
One Danish tradition is the Christmas plate. In the early days rich Danes gave plates with biscuits and fruit as presents to their servants. These plates were so special they were kept for special occasions and not used everyday, this is the reason why they became so collectable.
On Christmas Day only the children get up early to enjoy their presents from the night before. A traditional breakfast item is a type of doughnut with icing sugar, jam or maple syrup called Ableskiver. Christmas Day is usually spent with the family celebrating and having a long lunch of cold cuts with different types of fish, along with a drink of Aquavit for the adults. It is normally a very quiet time as the more formal visits with lunch and other activities usually begin on the 26th of December.
A little bit of Christmas Fun
Guide to new Danes - welcome to the Danish sandwich stall.
Yesterday I had bought sandwiches for lunch for Omid and me. A piece of fish fillet and remulade, a piece of meatball. Omid took a knife and fork and put them in the meatball, and I saw myself averting stretch out my hand and say no. Fish first! Why? Why? he asked. Because!
Because there are rules. Lots of rules. And they are good to know. No one will ever loudly criticize you for how to put together and eat your sandwich. But there will be that mood. From you doing something wrong. Totally wrong. So here are the rules:
Basic rule. The order. It's called the cold fish, the hot fish, the cold meat, the hot meat, cheese, dessert, fruit. You move that way forward, and if you've only taken a step forward, you can't go back again. The cold and hot meat may be eaten at the same time, but that's the only exception. If you have eaten meatballs, you can't take a herring food. That's how it is.
The herring is the first, along with salmon, prawns and eggs. Here are the rules:
Usually there are several kinds of herring. You can't mix them on the same food, but you can cut your rye bread in the quarter to try several kinds. The herring must lie on the bread, which is normally butter on, with the leather side upwards. For some herring there are onions, you put upstairs, but you put nothing else on herring. These are raw onions for marinated and red herring, fried onions for fried herring.
Herring is on rye bread; so is fish fillet. Salmon and eggs can be on both rye bread and bread; that is, if you only eat eggs without fish, it must be on rye bread. (If there are biscuits, they are only for the cheese, which is three plates later, so you can't take biscuits now! ) You can put remoulade on fish fillet and fish meatballs; if you put shrimp on top of your fish fillet, you should instead have mayonnaise. You don't put shrimp on fish meatballs (let alone herring). You put gravad sauce on your gravad salmon and only on it. If there are scrambled eggs, it belongs to the salmon, and then you don't put sauce on. If you come traveling on your salmon (i.e. only on the one who is not gravad) you can put mayonnaise on. Never remulade on salmon.
And remember - the cold, i.e. herring and salmon first - only afterwards fish fillet and fish meatballs. You can skip a point - but you can never go back.
After the fish, plates need to be replaced. If you are in a private home without many plates, it can be polite to offer to rinse the plates off. They don't need to be washed dishes, just washed and dried.
Then there is the meat, and here it might be appropriate to mention our relationship with pork. We are really good at making pork in 100 different ways. If you feel a reaction, if you say you don't eat pork, either because you are a Muslim, vegetarian or vegan, it's not necessarily because people mind; it's just as much an insecurities. Because how can we give you a really delicious Christmas table without pork? It's the chef's uncertainty to get his best ingredients taken away.
Today many will assume you don't eat pork, as long as you look like Middle East, which can also be annoying. But always just say it. We like the fact that things are clear. Clear but not direct. This means don't say I don't eat pork. It's too direct. In Danish we use small words to soften edges and wrap things up. So it's ebdre to say: Unfortunately, I don't eat pork (i.e. I acknowledge that you are good at making it) I don't eat pork (well we know each other) or: unfortunately I don't eat pork.
If you eat other meat, you can eat everything from the fish table, as well as chicken and asparagus startlets (unless they have committed the unusual placing meatballs in the chicken tartlets) chicken salad, roast beef and salt meat, duck and then cheese and dessert. If you don't eat meat, you can take an extra batch of fish when the others start the meat. Or jump to the cheese. But if you've taken cheese first, you can't go back to the fish. If you are a vegan, it's red cabbage and biscuits.
Time for the meat. Here it is with cold and warm less stringent. You can mix cut cuts and hot meat. However, rye bread - only rye bread - during the cut, there doesn't have to be under the heat. The red cabbage is eaten for meatballs, liver paté, duck and pork roast. Not for tenderloin steak, which belongs to onions, or apple pork, which belongs to applesauce. The remoulade only belongs to the roast beef and you can put roasted onions and horseradish upstairs. Some anarchistic Danish types are remoulade on liver paté. They can only allow themselves because you know they are breaking borders and need to show they do ;-) If there are brown potatoes, they belong to duck and pork roast, possibly meatballs. If there is a green cabbage, there will also be ham, as it belongs - and here you can also eat brown potatoes. The rule of thumb is that red cabbage and brown potatoes go together to the same.
Then you change the plate - to a smaller one. If it's a home with few plates, you keep the same one, here you don't need to rinse. Then there's cheese, and you have to grab a biscuit. Cheese can be eaten on all bread. There might be. be put some sweet jam next door for the cheese. The overstocked cheese is named Old Ole; in bingo games, Old Ole is shouted when no. 90 is drawn; therefore do not be confused if someone shouts Old Ole or number 90 at you if you take such a piece. It doesn't require answers.
Drinks (one of the reasons why you start shouting under the cheese) Today wine can be served for sandwiches, but it is tasteless. Beer and schnapps are needed. (or water - again; just say if you don't drink alcohol. Some say you get pushed, but I actually think there's more respect for not drinking - especially if you quietly say it out loud. Unfortunately, I don't drink alcohol (here unfortunately means you don't look down at those who drink) The snap is for the herring and cheese - and if you haven't drunk under the herring, you leave the glass without drinking until the cheese arrives. In some families you care very much about what schnapps are being drinking. Pretending you also think the father-in-law is the best. A schnapps can be bundled, that is, completely emptied, or bites over. In the old days, nice ladies always pray over, but that time seems to be over.
Time for dessert. If you are in a private home and rice a la mande is served, there will usually be an almond in one of the portions, which triggers an almond gift. So don't chew the almond if you get it but triumphantly take it out of your mouth and show it off, or discreetly hide it in the oral cavity until everyone has worked their way through the second portion. You are always jealous of whoever gets the almond gift, and it's really good style to sneak it under the table in hand for your girlfriend - or mother-in-law. (Remember that, Omid)
Just left the fruit, confectionery and coffee. Here's only one comment, especially for Italians - you don't peel! his fruit down over leftovers on the meat plate. One has switched to a small plate that belongs to cheese and dessert. The other one hurts us to see. We won't say anything but you will sense it's mad.
Of course there are local variations of Christmas food. If you are in doubt about the right combinations and sequences, please ask. We won't say anything of ourselves, but we love being asked and explained. Remember the small words; there is a world of difference between saying: How do I eat this? And how am I eating this again.
Welcome to; and enjoy it. The Danish sandwich table and Christmas table are absolutely fantastic.
For the Final day of Advent I have chosen the little match girl, its true the ending and story do not appear to be a happy one. For myself it really pulls together the importance of memories, and just how they can literally warm you and light the way. The little girls is in a desperate situation, and her beloved grandmothers memories light, warm and guide them back together in a manor of speaking.
THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL
a translation of hans christian andersen's "den lille pige med svovlstikkerne" by
It was so terribly cold. Snow was falling, and it was almost dark. Evening came on, the last evening of the year. In the cold and gloom a poor little girl, bareheaded and barefoot, was walking through the streets. Of course when she had left her house she'd had slippers on, but what good had they been? They were very big slippers, way too big for her, for they belonged to her mother. The little girl had lost them running across the road, where two carriages had rattled by terribly fast. One slipper she'd not been able to find again, and a boy had run off with the other, saying he could use it very well as a cradle some day when he had children of his own. And so the little girl walked on her naked feet, which were quite red and blue with the cold. In an old apron she carried several packages of matches, and she held a box of them in her hand. No one had bought any from her all day long, and no one had given her a cent.
Shivering with cold and hunger, she crept along, a picture of misery, poor little girl! The snowflakes fell on her long fair hair, which hung in pretty curls over her neck. In all the windows lights were shining, and there was a wonderful smell of roast goose, for it was New Year's eve. Yes, she thought of that!
In a corner formed by two houses, one of which projected farther out into the street than the other, she sat down and drew up her little feet under her. She was getting colder and colder, but did not dare to go home, for she had sold no matches, nor earned a single cent, and her father would surely beat her. Besides, it was cold at home, for they had nothing over them but a roof through which the wind whistled even though the biggest cracks had been stuffed with straw and rags.
Her hands were almost dead with cold. Oh, how much one little match might warm her! If she could only take one from the box and rub it against the wall and warm her hands. She drew one out. R-r-ratch! How it sputtered and burned! It made a warm, bright flame, like a little candle, as she held her hands over it; but it gave a strange light! It really seemed to the little girl as if she were sitting before a great iron stove with shining brass knobs and a brass cover. How wonderfully the fire burned! How comfortable it was! The youngster stretched out her feet to warm them too; then the little flame went out, the stove vanished, and she had only the remains of the burnt match in her hand.
She struck another match against the wall. It burned brightly, and when the light fell upon the wall it became transparent like a thin veil, and she could see through it into a room. On the table a snow-white cloth was spread, and on it stood a shining dinner service. The roast goose steamed gloriously, stuffed with apples and prunes. And what was still better, the goose jumped down from the dish and waddled along the floor with a knife and fork in its breast, right over to the little girl. Then the match went out, and she could see only the thick, cold wall. She lighted another match. Then she was sitting under the most beautiful Christmas tree. It was much larger and much more beautiful than the one she had seen last Christmas through the glass door at the rich merchant's home. Thousands of candles burned on the green branches, and colored pictures like those in the printshops looked down at her. The little girl reached both her hands toward them. Then the match went out. But the Christmas lights mounted higher. She saw them now as bright stars in the sky. One of them fell down, forming a long line of fire.
"Now someone is dying," thought the little girl, for her old grandmother, the only person who had loved her, and who was now dead, had told her that when a star fell down a soul went up to God.
She rubbed another match against the wall. It became bright again, and in the glow the old grandmother stood clear and shining, kind and lovely.
"Grandmother!" cried the child. "Oh, take me with you! I know you will disappear when the match is burned out. You will vanish like the warm stove, the wonderful roast goose and the beautiful big Christmas tree!"
And she quickly struck the whole bundle of matches, for she wished to keep her grandmother with her. And the matches burned with such a glow that it became brighter than daylight. Grandmother had never been so grand and beautiful. She took the little girl in her arms, and both of them flew in brightness and joy above the earth, very, very high, and up there was neither cold, nor hunger, nor fear-they were with God.
But in the corner, leaning against the wall, sat the little girl with red cheeks and smiling mouth, frozen to death on the last evening of the old year. The New Year's sun rose upon a little pathetic figure. The child sat there, stiff and cold, holding the matches, of which one bundle was almost burned.
"She wanted to warm herself," the people said. No one imagined what beautiful things she had seen, and how happily she had gone with her old grandmother into the bright New Year.
There’s a lot going on in this story true, I’m personally drawn to the girls memories of her grandmother. In the flames as she strikes each match in her final hours and moments she’s not remembering terrible things. Even though she could have with her life descriptions in the story. No in the flames she see wonderful loving memories, keeping her warm making her final thoughts lovely. Carrying her onto the next life.
Æbleskiver the word directly translated is Apple slices. Apples were sometimes placed in the centre. These are commonly served at Christmas with Gløgg! At the museum we fill ours with many flavors. There are MANY variations of this recipe. This is just the one we use at the museum.
You will need
3 egg whites beaten stiff
1 1/3 cups flour
1 cup milk
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup melted butter
Beat flour, milk, and egg yolks together well until no lumps. Add melted butter and beat well. Fold in beaten egg whites
Heat Æbleskiver pan fill each hole almost full. Using a knitting needle or wooden skewers turn each ball a quarter of the way around the go back to the first one and repeat until fully closed. The balls should be hallow in this recipe. Now turn and dry until medium brown and crisp. Serve with Icing sugar a jam. Or freeze and reheat in the oven at a later date. They freeze very well.
These are the Museum's Canadian Aebleskiver, we fill them with bacon and Maple syrup
May This season fill you with enough memories, Joy and Light to last you the whole next year through.
Merry Christmas from all of us at the Danish Canadian Museum