Danish Language Blog

Oh When The Nisser… Posted by on Dec 14, 2013 in Traditions

Okay, I promised you some more grammar, but I just have to show you this marching band of nisser, who brought December to town a handful of days ago:

Julemanden (Father Christmas) was throwing karameller (caramels) – and børnene (the children) loved it! To the delight of many small drenge (boys), even brandbilen (the fire engine) came along, dressed, as always, in rød (red) – the perfect colour for julemåneden (the Christmas month). The musicians with nissehuer (nisse or ”goblin” caps) were playing julesange (Christmas carols) and a few børnesange (children’s songs), as in the clip, where they play a melody that is often accompanied by these lyrics:

En elefant kom marcherende / hen ad edderkoppens fine spind / fandt at vejen var så int’ressant / at den byder op endnu en elefant (An elephant came marching / along the spider’s fine web / found that the way was so interesting / that it invites yet another elephant.) The next time the song is sung, the verse changes to To elefanter kom marcherende (Two elephants came marching), and so it goes, with more and more elephants climbing the cobweb!

We’re in the city of Århus, and julelysene (the Christmas lights) have just been tændt [tent] (lit, turned on). Then all the people in the city know that julen nærmer sig. (Christmas is drawing closer).

Denmark is cold and dark om vinteren (in the winter), so Christmas is much more than a religious celebration here. It’s like a joyous break from everything that is dull and sad. People just can’t wait to decorate their homes with red hearts, stars, candles and julekalendere (Christmas calendars). Older people complain that the shops start ”celebrating” Christmas earlier and earlier each year, with jolly nisser appearing in the show windows long before December.

But most Danes seem to have an insatiable appetite for red goblin caps, pre-Christmas eating and gift parties (the so-called julefrokoster), juleøl (Christmas beer) and gløgg, a sweet, hot Christmas drink with raisins, almonds, spices and a bit of wine.

Gløgg Around the Clock tonight

A glass of gløgg.

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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.