My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar – 15 December (Marcipan pigs and finding the almond in your ris à l'amande)

Welcome to my 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!

15 DECEMBER

Nine sleeps until The Big Day, woop woop! A comforting thought for my kids on these dark, cold school mornings – together with the chocolate advent calendar to open and eat before breakfast.  And me?  I’m happy that we’re keeping up-to-date with our Adventslys! 😉

Today I shall be wrapping a pig.  Okay, okay, so it’s not a live one…

It’s small, cute and made of yummy marcipan….

pig

If you’re hosting Danish Christmas dinner on the evening of 24 December and are serving the obligatory ris à l’amande for dessert (recipe coming soon…), then you’re going to need the obligatory marcipan pig for the obligatory mandelgave or ‘almond present’.  Ris a l’amande, despite the French name, is a very Danish dessert.  It’s a heavy, cold rice pudding, ‘lightened’ (ha!) with whipped cream and specked with chopped, blanched almonds.  And served with a jug of hot cherry sauce.  Yum!  Again!

ris

According to tradition (which dates back a century or two) a whole blanched almond is ‘hidden’ in the dessert.  The dessert is served to the whole table and whoever finds the whole almond in their portion is ‘the Winner’.  The mandelgave (almond present) is usually a small, marcipan pig (marcipangris) but can also be a small bottle of snaps, a book, a game, you name it.  And if you have small kids, I’d suggest sneaking a whole almond into each and every little child’s bowl if you want to ensure ‘peace on earth’ on Christmas Eve… ;)

In my DDH’s (Dear Danish Husband’s) family, they go a step further and try to hide the fact that they have found the whole almond until the very end of the meal.  By hiding it in their mouth, in a pocket, under the tablecloth etc.  Just to keep everyone guessing.

Sometimes we make the pigs ourselves out of marcipan.  Just google “marcipangris” for images, and you’ll find plenty of inspiration.  Otherwise you can take the easy way out – and get your little piggies from the supermarket.

Øf, øf!  Oink, oink!  Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow when we open the next door!

Diane :)


My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar – 13 December (Lucia)

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!

13 DECEMBER

Okay, so there are no prizes for guessing what I’m writing about today…  13 December means one thing and one thing only.  Santa Lucia!  A candlelight, singing procession – just before the sun comes up or goes down – on St. Lucia Day, the 13th of December.  Lead by the Lucia-brud (‘Lucia bride’) – she’s the girl with the crown of candles in her hair – her followers wearing long white robes and bearing candles.  A tradition stolen from our neighbours – those silly (but lovable) Swedes.  This is what it looked like when my DD12 took part in the procession a couple of years ago.  8.15am and it was still pitch black outside…

 Making their way through the corridors and the school library…

And, no – your eyes do not deceive you…  The girls carry real, lighted candles.  And the staff – selvfølgelig – take plenty of precautions.  One of the girls got her hair just a bit too close to the flame (have you ever noticed that almost every young Danish girl has long hair?! not a smart bob in sight!) and her hair got singed ever so slightly.  With that awful telltale smell into the bargain! 😉 But the teachers were on hand immediately and nothing worse happened.  All in a day’s work for a Danish teacher!  The Lucia girls thought it was exciting and have a story to tell.  And I’m glad to live in a country where they don’t use fear mongering and ban lighted candles – but instead carry on the tradition, use their common sense and teach the kids respect for open flames.  Hooray for those crazy Danes!  But for the faint at heart, battery operated candles are available…

If you want to hear the Lucia song, and get a real feeling of what it’s like to watch the small kids go by, here’s a cute little video from a Danish school.  Not a dry Mum’s eye in the house, I’m sure! :)

And will you be eating lussekatter today (‘St Lucia’ saffron buns)?  They’re very popular in Sweden but that tradition didn’t really catch on here in Denmark.

But, hey, be careful with those candles out there.  And don’t forget to check back here tomorrow when we open the next door!

Diane :)


My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar – 11 December (Trees)

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!

11 DECEMBER

Are you beginning to gear up for Christmas?  We’re dashing backwards and forwards to Christmas events and – eek – are already getting ‘behind’ with our Advent candle!  Maybe we need to burn it at both ends? 😉

Let’s talk Christmas trees!  Now, where I come from (Scotland) our trees are normally plastic and these days you can even buy them with fairy lights already attached.  Plug and play. 😉  Personally, I’d be quite happy with the artificial tree I bought when I worked at the ECJ in Luxembourg many moons ago.  That tree has served me (and børnehave ‘creche’) well.  It’s green plastic – selvfølgelig.  And green in the eco-friendly-buy-once-never-buy-again way.  But DDH (Dear Danish Husband) insists on The Real Thing.  Despite the cost.  [Ouch! Said the Canny Scot.]  But, hey ho, it’s Christmas.  And the only Christmas tradition he gives a (fresh) fig about… :P

Normally we just walk down the road to our local  pusher and hand over a small fortune.  For something that is going to adorn our living room for approximately two weeks.  [Sigh.]

Well, today I decided to cut the crapcost and buy our tree at IKEA.  Fresh, not plastic.  Not quite as tall as this one, though… C’mon everyone – put your backs into it! 😛

Along with the netting machine, they also have a nifty device for making holes in the bottom of the tree, so it can go straight into a wooden stand…

Did we select the tree in the forest ourselves and chop it down?  No!  But we paid half of what we did last year.  And they even give you an IKEA voucher for DKR 50 (UK£5.30, US$8.40) for every tree you buy…cheap at half the price!  Right now our two trees are sitting outside on the deck.  We’ll bring them in to the house next week and decorate them with plain white lights.  None of those tacky, coloured, flashing ones – it’s not the Danish way!  (Though, strangely enough, our neighbours across the Sound, those silly (but lovable) Swedes really like coloured lights/moving Santas/flashing reindeers on the roof stuff.)  Some of my Danish friends even do it the old-school way and use REAL candles on the tree.  Yep, Health and Safety forgot to make a stop in Denmark! 😉  But I just don’t dare…  So we just stick to electric fairy lights.  And then add baubles, Danish flags, our homemade hjerter (hearts) and our homemade kræmmerhuse (cones).

trees

Time to light that Advent candleand take a 15 minute break with a nice cuppa and a pebernød or two…  Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow when we open the next door!

Diane :)


My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar – 7 December (Gløgg)

Welcome to my 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!

7 DECEMBER

Today it’s Sunday – the second Sunday of Advent, so this morning the kids got their second advent pressie.  (Remember, we’ve abandoned the stress of the daily gifts involved in a pakkekalender.)  Their presents were obviously a hit because they started reading/playing while there were still crumbs from rundstykker on the table…  [In case you can’t stand the suspense, DS14 got Reeses Cups and the Cyanide and Happiness book, “Icecream and Sadness” and DD12 got modelling clay plus a Minion notebook and pencil.]

We lit the next candle in this year’s advent decoration…

…and tonight, after dinner, we’ll enjoy some æbleskiver (I posted the recipe for Danish Christmas donuts on 5 December)

…and drink gløgg  – Danish mulled wine.  Just like æbleskiver, every family has their own favourite gløgg recipe or brand they like to buy.  Go google gløgg recipes and you’ll see just how many variations there are – some for kids, some which are white, some absolutely full of snaps that are lethal! 😛  Just do your own thing and don’t listen to the purists.  I warm (and keep warm) our supermarket gløgg in my crockpot but a large saucepan on a low heat will do the job just as well.  Just remember not to boil it – unless you want to lose the alcohol!

This year we’re trying a different brand, from Irma (a supermarket chain), and a non-alcoholic gløgg from IKEA.

Whatever gløgg you chose to make, remember to add a large bowlful (or packet) of hakkede mandler (chopped almonds) and rosiner (raisins) to your concoction.  For me, it’s the act of fishing for the ‘bits’ at the bottom that turns it into a true gløgg experience…

It’s also tradition in our family that we drink gløgg on Lille Juleaften (Little Christmas Eve – 23 December) along with our homemade æbleskiver.  Mums!  (as the Danes say for ‘Yummy!’)

Skål!  Cheers!  And don’t – hic! – 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 :)


24 packages, tied up with string…

Pakkekalender!  A word to strike fear into the hearts of every Danish parent!

Not only do the Danes exchange gifts (after dinner) on the evening of 24 December, many families also make a pakkekalender  – an advent calendar of small gifts, one for every day in December – for their children or grandchildren.

When my DS14 was just a toddler, I thought, “What a quaint idea – child’s play!  Let me get started straight away!”  And preceded to spend my waking hours searching high and low for suitable (i.e. inexpensive [said the Canny Scot]) gifts, and every dark winter evening wrapping them all.  And let’s not forget a creative display on which to hang them! Here’s some inspiration for the uninitiated… 🙂

As the first of December approached, so did the pressure.  But I made it, hooray!  Let the games commence!  Sonny Boy initially expressed delight.  And for the first ten days or so, it went well.  “Oh, great, taaaaak Mor!”  But – hey ho – as we approached Christmas Day interest was waning.  And the gifts were beginning to pile up in a corner.  Next stop: the Toy Cemetery (bottom of the toybox) or the bin.  And then DD12 made her arrival, and I was then making not one but two pakkekalendere.  Help!  Finally I saw the light and came to my senses: I didn’t need the stress and my kids didn’t need the junk.

So I negotiated with them (um, okay, told them) that in future there would be no more Pakkekalendere!  These days it’s a chocolate calendar and Adventsgaver. One (farily large) present every Advent Sunday – usually a book, game or a DVD.

Now there are – selvfølgelig – in these days of big business, readymade pakkekalendere available – at a price – all wrapped and ready to gift.  And not only for your kids or grandkids.  How about a calendar of 24 luxury chocolates for your husband? Or 24 tiny bottles of nail varnish for your wife or girlfriend?  24 packets of tea for your Granny?  24 organic beauty products for a friend?  Yep, you name it, they have it in pakkekalender form…  Here’s something I glady buy for my DDS (Dear Scottish Dad) and DSB (Dear Scottish Brother) every year.  An advent calendar of julebryg (Danish Christmas beer).  Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow?  Hic! 😛

Okay, let’s wrap it up!  Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Diane 🙂


To be, or not to be (confirmed). That is the question! (Part Three)

Our DS14 (dear son, aged 14) is at the age where many young Danes get ‘confirmed’ and, if you saw Part One and Part Two, you’ll know that he’s been in a bit of a quandary. To be, or not to be (confirmed).  That is the question!

Well, he’s been attending the confirmation prep classes (which, you will remember, are scheduled into the Danish school timetable) and has also been at church on Sundays. Now, to be honest, it’s not because he has a burning desire to get out of bed early on Sunday mornings. I men, let’s face it, teenagers have no burning desire to get out of bed at all on Sundays! 😛  No, he’s been going to church with his cronies because, in order to be confirmed, you also have to attend a church service at least 10 times during the prep classes.  No cheating!  “So how do you prove that?”, says I.  “Well, Mum, I make sure to shake the minister’s hand at the end of the service.”  “Ah,” says I, “but the kids could also just say that they’ve attended a service at another church in the area, and no-one would ever know?”  “Hmm,” says DS14, “then you’d need some proof – like a photo of you inside the church or a copy of the Order of Service!”  Ha, serious stuff! 😛

As I sent him off on his bike on Sunday morning, I handed him DKR 20 (about USD 3.30, UK£2.10) for the collection plate.  And then I had a thought…what does the collection go to?  They can’t be raising money for a new roof or radiators for the church (as sometimes is the case in Scotland) – because here in Denmark the church is funded by the state. DS14 told me that all monies collected must go to charity, the church isn’t allowed to ‘make money’.  Good show!

But back to the quandary.  To be, or not to be (confirmed).  Well, DS14 wants to go ahead.  Which means that we can also go ahead and tell family/close friends to keep the date free and book their ferries and flights.  And start thinking about a venue, outfits, gifts, speeches and songs…phew, or should that be pew?!

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Diane 🙂

 


10 November? Duck for dinner!

My DDH (Dear Danish Husband) often accuses (is that the right word?!) me of being more Danish than the Danes.  You see, I ♥ traditions. And in Denmark there are just so many of the dang things – hooray – that I sometimes tend to go a bit overboard.  Take today, for example – 10 November:

DDH walks into kitchen:  Oh, duck for dinner tonight?  Great!

Me:  Well, selvfølgelig, we’re having duck, honey.  It’s the 10th of November!

DDH:  Um, eh, oh yes, just didn’t realise the date…

Me:  Yep, Mortensaften (“Morten’s Evening”), the day when all good Danes should be eating duck!

DDH:  Um, great!  But we never actually celebrated Mortensaften in my family when I was a kid…

Well, we do now!  So duck for dinner it is.  A kind of mini run through for 24 December, when the Danes eat duck for their Christmas dinner…

So why are the Danes eating duck tonight, 10 November?  Well, it all goes back to the year 371 when Saint Morten (ok, make that Saint Martin), a French munk, was forced into being a bishop.  The story goes that Morten (um, Martin) didn’t want the job, so tried to make a quick exit and hid himself in the nearest barn – which turned out to be full of geese.  The geese said “quack, quack, quack!” and Saint Morten (um, Martin) was discovered!  Boo!  Hiss!  And so – to get back at those pesky geese that gave the game away – the Danes eat goose (um, make that duck) on the evening of 10 November. (St Martin’s Day is 11 November.)

Velbekomme!  Or perhaps I should say bon appétit?  ‘Cos tonight we’re having French confit de canard (out of a tin).  Yum!

Have a marvelous Monday!

Diane 🙂

 

 


To be, or not to be (confirmed). That is the question! (Part two)

Okay, back to my DS14 (Dear Son, aged 14) and his forthcoming “confirmation” preparation classes.  Or, as they call it here, “at gå til præst” (“go to the priest”).  And no, it has nothing to do with the very smelly, rather rude looking mushroom I showed you in Monday’s post! ;P  “That smell? Must be the priest…

As I told you in Part one, confirmation preparation is scheduled into the school timetable.  Not having any previous experience (we don’t have the same tradition in the Church of Scotland) I hadn’t realised that – duh – we actually had to sign him up for the preparation classes. Oops!  Luckily, there wasn’t a problem with that.  Just a simple case of filling out a form (available online from the local church’s website) and hot-footing it over to the parish office…

So far so good!  Though, as we had feared, we didn’t really have any choice as to the actual date of the church service next spring (April/May 2015).  Out of the four or five possible days, there was only one date still available.  Take it or leave it!  The church has to limit the number of “konfirmander” (kids being confirmed) to 20 for each service to avoid the ceremony dragging on and on and on.  Not to mention the logistics of bums on seats bottoms on pews.  But, hey, at least we now have an actual date!  And can therefore tell family and our close friends to keep the date free. 🙂

So far so good!  Though now that we’ve started to tell people the date, they naturally ask where the celebratory lunch/party is going to be held…  At home?  A tent in the backgarden?  A local restaurant?  Time for DDH (dear Danish Husband) and I to sit down and start some serious planning!

So far so good!  Last weekend a letter came through the letterbox from the minister with lots of information and confirming the date of the church service.  He (the minister happens to be a ‘he’ but happily we have plenty of female ministers in Denmark too) went on to explain that he would actually be leading not one but two services that day, in order to accommodate everyone.  So would we prefer 10 am or 12 pm?  Not sure what the most popular choice is.  Perhaps 10am, so that you can sit down to an early lunch?  Well, given that most of our family will be making the journey by car+ferry from Jutland (the other side of Denmark), we’ve asked for the late slot.  Don’t want to run any risks and people singing, “Get me to the church on time!”

So far so good!  Phew!  And we can be thankful that it’s our boy being confirmed first. Have you seen the prices of confirmation dresses?  Extortionate, even at half the price!

Exciting times…stay tuned to find out more!

Diane 🙂


To be, or not to be (confirmed). That is the question! (Part One)

As you saw in my Monday post – Back to (the new) school (reform)! – my two little darlings are back at school and life has returned to normal.  Or is this just the calm before the proverbial storm?  We may be coming up for a turbulent six months.  Should we be ringing round relatives?  Looking at venues?  Choosing outfits?  Making wishlists?

Why?  Well just look at this autumn’s school timetable for DS14 (Dear Son, aged 14)

Don’t see it?  Look closely!

Yes, besides the usual suspects of French, Maths, Christianity, Modern Studies, etc, etc, etc, there’s a new kid on the block.  “Præst” (Priest). Tuesdays and Thursday afternoons from 2 til 2.50pm.  The official name is “konfirmationsforberedelsen” (confirmation preparation).  Our DS14 has just started 8th grade and is therefore coming up to the first (should he choose to accept it) ‘milestone’ in his life. Confirmation.  To be, or not to be (confirmed).  That is the question!

My DDSIL (Dear-Danish-Sister-in-Law) was already on the phone to us last year, asking if she and DDBIL should keep any weekends in April or May 2014  free for a possible confirmation celebration.  Say what?  Well, in Jutland, children are confirmed in the 7th grade.  So she was just phoning to be on the safe side.  Anyway, here in Copenhagen, it’s 8th grade.  So the time is, um, almost now.  Yikes!  Time to find a party venue!

Now, here’s something which floored me…  “Confirmation preparation” is part of the Danish school timetable.  Imagine that! In a country where I have yet to meet someone who is a churchgoer! 😛  But even though it’s factored in to the school day, participation at the classes is entirely voluntary.  As well as church rituals and some Bible study, the preparation classes delve into life’s big questions.  Birth, death, love, sex, education, friendships, work/life balance, marriage…

DS14 is undecided about the whole Danish rite of passage.  On the one hand, there is the lure of a party in his honour, with songs and speeches by friends and family.  (Very similar to a Danish wedding!)  Not to mention the even more alluring prospect of gifts and lots of cool cash. Remember my post When Blue Monday isn’t New Order?  In 2011 the average amount of gifts raked in by ‘konfirmander’ was a staggering 17,000 kroner (US $3,200 or GB £1,980).  Give us the money! 😉

On the other hand, DS14 is very scientific (well, yes, he’s in a special Biotech class, for Pete’s sake!) and swears by The Big Bang.  (The theory and the television series.)  So feels it would be wrong to be confirmed in church as he doesn’t “believe” in God.    As parents, we’ve told him that the decision is entirely up to him.  DDH (Dear Danish Husband) was confirmed when he was a lad but today is an atheist.  I’m not confirmed (we don’t have the equivalent in the Church of Scotland) and know nothing about the Bible, but I do believe that there is a God.  Of some kind.

Funnily enough, I bumped into our old parish priest (she christened our DD12 when DD was a babe in arms) down at the sea the other week . The priest (or, minister, as we say in Scotland) asked how the kids were getting on and I mentioned DS14’s dilemma. She said, “Tell him not to take it so seriously!”  She thought that it was a real shame that so much pressure put on the kids to “believe” or “measure their faith” and she herself encouraged them to relax and enjoy the tradition.  Who doesn’t love a party?  Besides – as the Danes are always quick to point out – confirmation is not in fact the child saying “Yes” to God.  It’s God saying “Yes” to the child! 😉

But back to DS14.  To be, or not to be (confirmed)?  Well, for the moment, he’s decided to “gå til præst” and take part in the classes.  And make a reasoned decision (complete with venn diagrams?) later.

Watch this space!  There might be more between heaven and earth…

Diane 🙂