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Christmas Preparations in Denmark Posted by on Dec 18, 2015 in Society, Traditions

Sikken voldsom trængsel og alarm! / Det er koldt og man må gå sig varm! (What a tremendous crowd and commotion! / It’s cold and you have to ”walk yourself warm”.) This 1848 hit ballad (by Peter Faber) is still sung by Danes during julen (Christmas) – probably because its description of travle mennesker (busy people) in the julegader (Christmas streets) is totally up to date! Dagene er korte (days are short) in Denmark now, and soon it’s 24. december and juleaften (Christmas Eve)! Har du købt alle dine gaver? (Have you bought all your presents?) Skynd dig (hurry up) – or butikkerne (the shops) will be empty! 😉

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Copenhagen Street decorated for jul! (Photo courtesy of at Comrade Foot at Flickr, Creative Commons license.)

Of course, buying julegaver (Christmas gifts) for your venner og familie is only one part of alle forberedelserne (all the preparations) inden jul (before Christmas)! Way before december many Danes have been busy with the activity known as ”at pynte til jul” (to decorate for Christmas). In streets, shops and private hjem [yemm] (homes) you’ll find everything from red-capped nisser (Scandinavian pixies or ”mini-Santas”) to granguirlander [grahn-gearLANDor] (spruce festoons), julelys (Christmas lights, candles) and håndflettede julehjerter (hand-braided Christmas hearts). And from the 1st till the 24th of December børn (children) – and some voksne (adults)! – are busy keeping up to date with a heap of julekalendere (Christmas/Advent calendars): gift calendars, chocolate calendars, televison calendars, kalenderlys (calendar candles)…

Between all the julefrokoster (Christmas ”lunch” parties, where you eat, play games and drink with friends and kollegaer) you also have to find time for julerengøringen (the Christmas cleaning). This is the time when your lost USB drive magically reappears from underneath your sofa! 🙂 People who write julekort (Christmas cards) must hurry up to mail them inden det er for sent (before it’s too late) – or resort to a desperate last-minute e-mail fight!

Juleaften is højdepunktet (the culmination) of the Christmas period in Denmark. For many people, preparing julemaden (the Christmas food) takes a lot of time as well – whether your meal-of-choice is and (duck), gås (goose),  kalkun (turkey) or flæskesteg (roast pork)! When juletræet (the Christmas tree) has been pyntet (decorated) and the small stearinlys (stearin candles) on its grene (branches) have been lit, and familien er samlet (the family is gathered), then, finally, there is a chance that julefreden sænker sig (”Christmas Peace descends”)!

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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.