Danish Language Blog

Christmas Vocabulary Posted by on Dec 24, 2016 in Traditions, Vocabulary

In Denmark on Christmas Eve, ”live” candles are common on the Christmas tree. Of course, it’s a good idea to have a bucket of water nearby! 🙂 (Photo courtesy of Peter Leth at Flickr, CC License.)

Nu er det jul igen! (Now it’s Christmas again! – a line from a Danish Christmas song…) Few people are so crazy about jul (Christmas) as the Danes – maybe because it’s nice to have something to glæde sig til (look forward to/happily anticipate) in the dull Danish winter, where you never know if the gray rain will eventually turn into beautiful sne (snow)? Here are some of the most common jul words to let you ”talk the talk”.

Before jul

  • nisse – goblin (Scandinavian-style, like a small Santa Claus! 🙂  )
  • nissehue – nisse cap
  • julekalender – Advent calendar (24 pieces of chocolate/24 pictures/24 small gifts etc. for each day between Dec. 1st and Dec. 24th!)
  • kalenderlys – Advent calendar candle (the number 1-24 are printed on the candle, and you burn a small piece every day!)
  • adventskrans – advent wreath (four candles, with one being lit each Sunday leading up to jul)
  • guirlander – festoons (lots of streets are pyntet, decorated, with festoons of gran, spruce!)
  • julepynt – Christmas decorations
  • indkøb – shopping
  • stress
  • julefrokost – Christmas party (every club or workplace makes one!)
  • risengrød – rice porridge
  • gløgg – warm mulled wine (with or without alcohol), often served with rosiner (raisins), mandler (almonds)
  • småkager – cookies; several kinds are eaten only during the Xmas season, for example
  • brunkager – ”brown cookies”
  • pebernødder – ”pepper nuts”
  • klejner – cookies that are baked in fat like donuts, but look like bows/knots


  • juleaften – Christmas Eve (Dec. 24th is the Great Day in Denmark!)
  • juletræ – Christmas tree
  • juletræsfod – the ”foot” used to make a Christmas tree stand in stuen (the sitting room)
  • at gå/danse rundt om juletræet – walking/dancing around the Christmas tree (yes, lots of Danes actually do this!)
  • julegaver – Christmas gifts
  • stjerne – star
  • hjerte – heart
  • kræmmerhus – cornets (as pynt on juletræet)
  • stearinlys – ”live” candles
  • julemanden – Santa Claus
  • julesange – Christmas carols/songs
  • hygge
  • and/gås/kalkun – duck/goose/turkey (the traditional Christmas main dishes!)
  • brunede kartofler – caramelled potatoes
  • risalamande [rissallaMANG] – a sweet dessert made of risengrød and fløde (cream). People hide a mandel (almond) in it; the lucky one to find it gets the
  • mandelgave – a special gift associated with the eating of risalamande. Sometimes the gift may be a
  • marcipangris – marzipan pig
  • sammen – together 🙂

Glædelig jul!

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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.