Danish Language Blog

O, Christmas Where Art Thou! Posted by on Nov 27, 2011 in Traditions, Vocabulary

Advent wreath 4

Today’s got a name in Danish: den første søndag i advent. (Yeah, you got it right: the first Sunday in Advent!) Advent, of course, is the countdown for jul (Christmas). Today many families are lighting the first out of four candles in their adventskrans (advent wreath). Over the next three Sundays the remaining lys (candles) will be lit, one at a time. In a few families they even use the opportunity to sing a couple of julesange (Christmas carols) around the wreath. (Well, at least that’s what we did it in my family when I was a kid!)

The real nedtælling (countdown), of course, started several weeks ago. Every year the shops seem to decorate their windows with julehjerter (Christmas hearts) and fake sne (snow) just a bit earlier. Towns are adorned by guirlander (festoons, pronounce: gear-lander) and the occasional julegran (Christmas spruce) at the market. Boder (booths) offering julekager (Christmas cookies) and hot drinks mysteriously appear out of nowhere in the cities. Old ladies start taking their bæreposer (shopping bags) for a walk instead of the dog… And every year there are people complaining that the Christmas ”race” is starting too early!

Vinter in Denmark can be a cold and dark experience. Like Halloween, then, the Christmas preparations give people a sense of purpose, something to cling onto till Spring comes hopping along and life’s a breeze again. As my hairdresser told me earlier this month:  –Well, I agree december is the real julemåned (Christmas month), but it’s so dark outside and people kept asking me about julepynt (Christmas decorations), so I decided to put those electrical Christmas lights in my front window… And it sure is appreciated!

December 1st, then, is when the launch party really takes off. Now even the most reluctant families start buying julegaver (Christmas presents), and the children open the first låge (or luge, both meaning ’Calendar door’) of their julekalender (’Advent calendar’, a Christmas paper calendar with 24 ”doors”, some of them come with tiny pieces of chocolate), eventually pick the first gift of their pakkekalender (gift calendar) and watch the first episode of the julekalender (a kind of televised Christmas show or story in 24 parts, parallelling the paper calendar).

As the banjo-playing mouse sings in the children’s song ”Søren Banjomus” (Søren the banjo mouse):

Bar´ det altså snart var jul, kan ikke vente…

If only it were Christmas soon, can’t wait…

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About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.