My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar – 18 December (Counting stars)

Welcome back to My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar!  Join me every day in opening a new door.  Once again, I’ve got a host of goodies to share with you – traditional Danish Christmas recipes, traditions, songs, games, decorations, crafts and landscapes…  So sit back, relax and enjoy!

18 DECEMBER

Is there a Christmas decoration that hangs in every window in your corner of the world?  Around these parts it used to be this retro classic – we ‘inherited’ this one from the previous owners of our Swedish summer house and I love it – pure Christmas kitsch! 🙂

But now there’s a new Sheriff in town…complete with a star – Julestjernen!

Yep, those stars seem to be hanging in every Danish shop window and home right now…

And you know they’ve gone viral when supermarkets and discount stores start selling them.

Julestjernen (“Christmas star”) is, co-incidentally, also the Danish name for the poinsettia…

I also spotted these in the shop windows…paper stars – another obsession of those crazy (but lovable) Danes!

If you want to try your hand at making some yourself, buy the long, thin strips of paper ready cut at hobby stores and bookshops.  Precision is key!

But I’m warning you, they’re very tricky and mind-boggingly time-consuming to make – I don’t think I’ll ever master them.  Normally I give up and turn them into musetrapper (“mouse steps”) instead… ! 😛

IMAG1450

Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow when we open the next door!

Diane :)


My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar – 9 December (Kræmmerhuse)

Welcome to My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar!  Join me every day in opening a new door.  Once again, I’ve got a host of goodies to share with you – traditional Danish Christmas recipes, traditions, songs, games, decorations, crafts and landscapes… So sit back, relax and enjoy!

9 DECEMBER

Last week I showed you how tomake some heartsand today we’re doing another quick craft – kræmmerhuse (cones).  Which – along with paper woven hearts – are a common decoration hanging on Danish Christmas trees.  Very easy to make – just ask any Danish nursery kid…  Giant ones, tiny ones: you can use them in lots of ways.  Make a large version, fill it with a gift to give to a friend.  Hang them in your hallway or in windows.  Or, as we usually do, on the Christmas tree – filled with nuts, pebernødder, a clementine or some konfekt (homemade sweets).  Buy you may have to refill them…’cos pesky little nisser (elves) have a habit of empyting them when you aren’t looking! ;)

I was round at my BBB (Best Bathing Buddy) V yesterday for our annual Klippeklistre day – the day we get together before Christmas to eat lots of småkager (biscuits) and æbleskiver (Danish Christmas donuts) and make Christmas decorations.  Klippe means to cut and klistre means to stick.  And here I am, dear readers, wearing my red dress – specially for the occasion!

me

Our kids spent most of their time in the kitchen, rolling and cutting out cookies from brunkage dough…

And a very hyggelig afternoon and evening it was too! 🙂

But as usual, I digress!  To make kræmmerhuse you’ll need a piece of paper or carton.  Wallpaper works really well for this so, if you have any offcuts lying around, now is the time to declutter them. 😉  Draw a circle (using a small or large plate as a guide) and cut out.

Fold the sides of the circle in, so you have a pointy bit at the bottom and a large, open end at the top.  It’s entirely up to you if you want a very open cone…  (I stuck a paper doily on the back of my red circle, to give my cone a bit of ‘oomph’.)

Or perhaps you prefer a more streamlined, longer, slightly more closed cone. (Please note the very Chrismassy fingernails of my other BBB, H!)

Use a big dab of glue or a piece of tape to hold it together.  If you just want to fill it with sweets to give to a friend or neighbour, then you can stop here.

Otherwise you’ll want to add a handle for hanging on a tree, door handle or from the ceiling.  Cut out a long thin strip of paper (always cut longer than you think you’ll need, don’t ask me how I know this!) and glue/tape the handle to the inside of the cone.

Ta da, done!  You can now start adding glitter, lace, sequins, glansbilleder (scraps), ribbon, buttons or whatever takes your fancy in order to jazz it up a little.  Here are a selection of the ones we made yesterday…

So, now that we have some kræmmerhuse, all we need is et juletræ (a Christmas tree).  But – as we’re in Denmark – and will have a real fir tree (um, no plastic please, we’re Danish!) that won’t be happening until the week before Christmas…

Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow when we open the next door!

Diane :)

 


My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar – 6 December (Hearts)

 

Welcome back to My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar!  Join me every day in opening a new door.  Once again, I’ve got a host of goodies to share with you – traditional Danish Christmas recipes, traditions, songs, games, decorations, crafts and landscapes…  So sit back, relax and enjoy!

6 DECEMBER

Yesterday I showed you how to make æbleskiver (Danish Christmas donuts) and today we’re getting our scissors and glue out!  I was at the library on Thursday, looking at all the Xmas books…

And came across some books on how to weave some very intricate hearts… 

The Danes say that “Jul er hjerternes fest“.  That “Christmas is the festival of hearts”.  Yep, look around and you’ll see hearts everywhere.  Gingerbread hearts, crocheted hearts, heart-shaped tree ornaments and Danish woven paper hearts – hanging in windows or on the branches of Christmas trees.

So are you ready to “jule” (yep, the Danes even use the word ‘Christmas’ as a verb!) and make some (easy peasy) Danish Christmas heart crafts?

WOVEN PAPER HEART

My dearly departed Danish father-in-law loved to make things out of paper and was a dab hand at those intricate woven designs. But be warned: in order to do paper weaving, you have to have nimble fingers, bucketloads of patience and Danish blood in your veins.  You’re still determined to try?  Hmm, then I’d suggest borrowing a book from your local Danish library.  Or try, for example, http://www.julidannevang.dk/klip/klip.shtml

But I’m going to show you the two-minute version – the cheat’s version – as taught to me by DD12 (dear daughter, aged 12).  She learned to make the hearts this way when she was at nursery…  You’ll need two pieces of paper or carton in different colours.  (Red and white, if you want to be really traditional.)  Mark out the shape (see below) and draw a line in the middle, up to the point where the edge starts to curve.  Cut out the shapes and then cut along the middle lines.

Turn the white carton at right angles and weave the first ‘finger’ through the red carton.

 

Weave the red ‘finger’ over the white and – hey presto – færdig (done)!  Just add a dab of glue or a piece of sticky tape, to stop the heart from falling apart.  Use blue tack (or, as Danish kids call it, ‘pædagog-snot‘ = ‘teacher snot’!) to fix them on your window pane.  Or add a paper loop, and hang them on the tree. 

 

FABRIC HEART

You could, of course, buy these in the shops.  But the cutest/kitschest/most precious ones are, without doubt, those handmade ones that your little darling brings home from kindergarten, nursery or school.

Super simple.  Cut two heart shapes out of fabric.  Tip: if you use zigzag scissors, you won’t have problems with edges fraying. (Felt fabric is perfect for this job.)  You can make them any size you like, but hearts about the size of your palm work well.

Sew round the edges, leaving an opening for stuffing.  You can use a sewing machine or do it ‘old school’ with a large needle and thick thread.  Stuff the heart, then sew shut. 

Add a loop at the top of the heart, so you can hang it up (on the tree, on a door handle, etc).  You can also add some beads, glitter glue, etc.  We went for the simple look and used this plain ribbon that says “God Jul”.  Which, as you will remember, has nothing to do with God! ;) 

Okay, we’re done!  Don’t forget to tidy up after yourself and check back here tomorrow when we open the next door!

Diane :)


My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar – 4 December (Nisser)

Welcome to My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar!  Join me every day in opening a new door.  Once again I’ve got a host of goodies to share with you – traditional Danish Christmas recipes, traditions, songs, games, decorations, crafts and landscapes…  So sit back, relax and enjoy!

4 DECEMBER

Let’s talk about nisser!

nisser

Admittedly not one of my personal favourite parts of a Danish Christmas – most of those elves give me the heebie geebies! 😛  But nisser – elves – feature heavily in Danish Christmas songs, stories and, of course, decorations – you’ll often see cardboard kravlenisser (“crawling elves”) hanging on bookshelves and windowsills.

You’ll also find nisser in Danish schools.  Both my kids (DearSon,14 and DearDaughter,12) are playing nissevenner (“elf friends”, the equivalent of ‘Secret Santa’) where they have to hide several small gifts for a classmate to find.  The names are drawn at random, and the general rule is around 4 gifts costing a maximum total of DKR 75 (USD12 or UK£8).

But not all nisser are nice!  There are also drillenisser (“teasing elves”, naughty elves) about!  Often it’s Mum and Dad to pre-school kids who pretend to be Drillenissen.   And just what do those drillenisser get up to?  Well, you might wake up in the morning and find that they’ve put grød (porridge), nuts or newspaper in your shoes.  Or turned your coat, hat and gloves inside out.  Or put Nutella on top of your toothbrush.  Wrapped the door handles in toilet paper.  Can’t find your socks?  Hmm, take a look in the fridge!  Phew…it’s hard work playing a new trick every single day in December! 🙂

Anyway, love them or hate them, you just can’t get away from them.  They’re everywhere – even hanging around at the school dentist (along with their giant toothbrushes).

I’m not quite sure whether the dental assistants love or hate nisser.  They had a jar full ofsyltede nisserumper (“pickled elf bottoms”!) on the reception desk… ;)

Anyway, would you like to make your own big, nosy nisse, that’s easy peasy to do and won’t take more than 10 minutes?

You’ll need:

  • thin felt or stiff material
  • sewing machine or needle, thread
  • large wooden bead or ball
  • a bit of stuffing or the wool that you use for making felt (name escapes me)
  • glue (I love my hot glue gun!)

Cut out a ‘hat’ for your elf from the felt. Don’t worry too much, a rough triangle will do. Fold it over and sew it down one edge. Then turn it inside out, so the stitches don’t show, using a pencil to help you get right into the little pointy top.

Put a bit of the stuffing inside the hat (this will also help it to stand upright).  Stick on a large wooden bead for his ‘nose’, just under the brim of the hat.  The hot glue gun is great for this, no hanging around.

Then take more of the stuffing and pull it to bits, so you end up with a pile of smaller pieces.  Use this to make his beard and stick that on underneath the hat/nose.

And while you get on with making your very own nisse, have a listen to a famous song about them.  Yep, you can’t beat a bit of John Mogensen – he’s a cult classic!

PÅ LOFTET SIDDER NISSEN…

What’s going on with all those rats?  Well, they were hoping to eat the porridge but the elf threatens to set the cat on them…

Here are the lyrics in Danish:

På loftet sidder nissen med sin julegrød,
sin julegrød, så god og sød,
han nikker, og han spiser, og han er så glad
for julegrød er hans bedste mad.
Men rundt omkring står alle de små rotter,
og de skotter, og de skotter:
“Vi vil så gerne ha’ lidt julegodter,”
og de danser, danser rundt i ring.

Men nissefar han truer med sin store ske:
“Vil I nu se at kom’ af sted,
for jeg vil ha’ min julegrød i ro og fred,
og ingen, ingen vil jeg dele med.”
Men rotterne de hopper, og de danser,
og de svinser, og de svanser,
de kikker efter grøden, og de standser,
og de står om nissen tæt i ring.

Men nissefar han er en lille hidsigprop,
og med sin krop han gør et hop:
“Jeg henter katten, hvis I ikke holder op,
når katten kommer, skal det nok bli’ stop.”
Så bliver alle rotterne så bange,
åh, så bange, åh, så bange,
de vender sig og danser et par gange,
og en, to, tre, så er de væk!

…and a very rough English translation:

In the loft sits the elf with his Christmas porridge, his Christmas porridge, so good and sweet,
he nods, and he eats and he is so happy,
because Christmas porridge is his favorite food.
But around him are all the little rats,
and they look out of the corner of their eyes,
and they look out of the corner of their eyes.
“We really want some Christmas sweets”,
and they dance, dance around in a ring.

But elf-daddy he threatens with his big spoon,
“Won’t you just run away now,
because I want my Christmas porridge in peace and quietsy,
and no one, no one will I share it with.”
But the rats they hop, and they dance,
and they swing their hips,
they look at the porridge, and they stop,
and they stand around the elf, closely packed in a ring.

But elf-daddy he is a little angry cork,
and with his body he makes a jump:
“I will fetch the cat, if you don’t stop,
when the cat comes, it will be stopped.”
And then all of the rats get so scared,
oh so scared, oh so scared,
they turn around and dance a couple of times,
and one, two, three, then they are gone!

* * * * * *

Keep an eye on those crazy Danish nisser (and rats)!  And don’t forget to check back here tomorrow when we open the next door!

Diane :)


Gæk, gæk, gæk? Guess your way to an Easter egg!

My kids will be on Easter break from Friday.  Woo hoo – no more pesky packed lunches for the next week!  (For them, school restarts Tuesday 22 April.)

And that – selvfølgelig – means it’s time for a traditional Danish Easter craft: making a gækkebrev – a secret snowdrop letter!  For which we’ll need a vintergæk (snowdrop).  Though – as we’re well into April – Danish snowdrops have basically gone into hiding again, so we may need to improvise.  Now, did you know that gækkebreve are a purely Danish tradition?  I thought it was a Scandinavian thing.  But no.  It’s a crazy Dane thing.  And right now, as I type, little kids all over Denmark are sitting at home (or nursery, school, the museum or local library) cutting holes in paper and drawing lots of dots.  All in the hope of getting a chocolate Easter egg!  More on the logistics of that later in the post…  First up, let’s get making one! :)

You’ll need:

  • white and coloured paper
  • glue or a gluestick
  • a pair of scissors
  • a snowdrop 

Choose a coloured piece of paper for your paper ‘doily’. Fold it in half, then in half again.  Draw a rough shape and cut out.  If you’ve never done this kind of thing before, keep it simple!  The Danes are world-famous for their intricate papercutting.  Hans Christian Andersen(you know, the one who wrote “The Ugly Duckling”, “The Little Match Girl”, “The Princess and the Pea”, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, “Thumbelina” etc, etc, etc…) was also an expert at papercutting.  I’ve only lived here for 16 years, so I’m still learning…

Open up up the paper and you should have something that looks like this.

Stick it on to a plain white piece of paper. I used a gluestick.  And it’s fine if it isn’t perfectly stuck down all over – it just gives it an even better 3d effect ;)

Then you’re ready to write a little poem on it.

Henne bag ved havens hæk, fandt jeg denne vintergæk.

Hej, min hvide lille ven, nu er turen din igen.

Du skal gå til min ven, hviske så kan kan forstå,

han må gætte prikke små, for et påskeæg at få!

 

But if your family and friends aren’t Danish, you’ll probably want one in English, right? Try this one for size:

 

Snowdrop, snowdrop, snowdrop fine,

Omen true of hope divine,

From the heart of winter bring

Thy delightful hope of spring.

Guess my name I humbly beg.

Your reward: An Easter-Egg.

Let these puzzling dots proclaim

Every letter in my name

 

Now listen carefully.  [I shall say this only once…]  At the bottom of the gækkebrev, DON’T sign your name.  You draw a large dot for every letter of your name.  So my name, Diane, would be  . . . . .    If the person who receives the letter guesses who it comes from, you have to give them an Easter egg.  But if they can’t guess, they have to give you an Easter egg.  So disguise your handwriting and be creative!  I usually put in three dots for M.U.M.!  ;)

The final touch is to pick a snowdrop from your garden – just draw one if need be – add it to the letter and send to a friend or loved one.   And keep your fingers crossed that they don’t guess who it’s from…

 

 

God Påske!  Happy ……!

Diane :)