My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar – 19 December (Weird and wonderful)

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!

19 DECEMBER

I was in town last week with the kids, looking at the Christmas lights and displays.  Now, I now they are going for the ‘wow’ factor but this year ILLUM (a Danish department store) has more of a “shock and awe” factor.  Did they take inspiration from the second season of the tv series The Bridge / Broen / Bron?  Need a reminder about that scandi crime series ?  Here’s a little snippet…note the animal masks!

And here, dear readers, are the ILLUM window displays.  Am I the only one who finds them a bit creepy? ;-)

This one doesn’t have a leg to stand on…boom, boom!

Flødeboller arranged as a Christmas tree?  Okay, we did like this one…

Rabbit head plus little glowing baby/child = extra creepy!

Oh, well, at least the animal choir were pretty fun to watch.  They danced along to the song, “I’m too sexy.”

But what is the front one holding?!  Oh, yes.  A bra – selvfølgelig!

And this last window?  Words fail me…

It was a relief to go round the corner…

…and get back to some normal Christmas lights.  (If you want to see the lights at Tivoli this year, see Tuesday’s post.)

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

Diane :)

By Diane • December 19, 2014
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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… ! :-P

IMAG1450

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

Diane :)

By Diane • December 18, 2014
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My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar – 17 December (Konfekt – homemade sweets)

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!

17 DECEMBER

I went a bit mad at the weekend when I was at the supermarket.  Not only is our house bursting with enough nibbles, sild (herring) and julebryg to sink a small Armada, behold this little lot!

These are just some of the ingredients we’ll be using tonight to make lots and lots of yummy Danish konfekt – small, homemade sweets.  Let’s see, we’ve got copious amounts of marcipan…

…and Danish nougat (a very soft brown fudge, not to be confused with French white nougat or Spanish túrron)…

…and some dried fruits (we like to use dates, apricots and crystallised ginger).

And plenty of chocolate – less is not more when you’re making konfekt! ;-) You’ll typically see konfekt served at Christmas, as party food or at the end of a meal instead of dessert.  Here’s what we’ll normally munch on when watching the day’s installment of the children’s tv Christmas calendar…

Need a few ideas to get you started?  Take some marcipan,  a large bar of chocolate and whatever else you have on hand: dried apricots, dates, Smarties or M+Ms, tiny marshmallows, coconut, icing sugar, edible gold, food colouring and tiny paper cases…  Roll out the marcipan and cut into shapes.  Or take a date and ‘stuff’ it with marcipan, then dip in chocolate.  Or cut up some apricots, and put a piece inside a ball of marcipan and roll in icing sugar, coconut or chopped nuts.  Soak some raisins in cognac for a couple of days, then spoon into tiny cases and cover with chocolate.  Anything goes!

Enlist the help of some little elves.  Though keep your eye on them because they eat rather copious amounts of marcipan etc while they work…

If you want to be more creative, just ‘google’ pictures of konfekt. You can do nougat-filled-yule-logs, coconut balls, boozy flavoured marcipan etc, etc, etc…  (If you’re a Danish marcipan freak like me, then you must try making a fabulous Danish cake – Mazarinkage.  My recipe for that is right here.)  But this is our family-favourite-five-minute-konfekt.  The hardest part?  Waiting it for the chocolate to dry! ;)

Velbekomme!  And don’t forget to check back here tomorrow when we open the next door!

Diane :)

By Diane • December 17, 2014
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My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar – 16 December (Jazz and Tivoli)

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!

16 DECEMBER

I have a few Christmas ‘outing’ traditions.  One is taking in a julestue or two, and another is listening to some live jazz – with our favourite Mads Mathias.  We’ve seen him in lots of small venues (see the photo below from a couple of years ago) but this year we’re going to see him perform at Koncerthuset with DR’s Big Band orchestra…should be a fun night!  :)

Mads Mathias at Huset i Magstræde, January 2013

And we always (always) make a trip to Tivoli.  We’ve got membership cards and visit the park and gardens all year round (Easter, the whole of summer, Halloween) but, personally, I love seeing all the lights and decorations in December.  Hyggeligt!

tivoli1

We went in late yesterday afternoon (about 4.45pm) and, as luck would have it, it was actually very quiet and we didn’t have to queue for any of the rollercoasters.  Lookie here – space to move around! :)

tivoli7

We did the usual rides like the Chair’o’planes, the old Rollercoaster, the Odin Express and the Demon.  But didn’t bother with the Star Flyer because it’s really cold and windy when you get so high up! ;) (That would be 80m or 260ft!)

tivoli5

Love all the giant nutcrackers on top of the concert building!

tivoli6

The swans were out in force in front of Nimb, but they had to make do with articifial snow and ice.  Current temperature here is a mild (for the time of year…) 4c or 39f.

tivoli2

And, really, what could be more romantic than a trip on a slow boat to…Copenhagen? ;-)  My DD12 wondered how long it took for the staff to attach all the lights to that tree.  Whilst I (the grown up/Canny Scot) was wondering just how much it would cost to run in electricity! :-P

tivoli3

If you’re looking for a nice bite to eat, then head for Grøften, which is very traditional and has been serving food to the Danes – and lots of famous visitors – since 1874.  Here’s my Dear Dad from Scotland, about to tuck into a stjerneskud (fried plaice topped with prawns and caviar) and a julebryg last year….

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You can even do a bit of Christmas shopping at Tivoli’s Christmas market.  We thought these were rather quaint…hard-boiled toffees with different Danish motifs (Dannebrog, H.C.Anderson, the Daisy, the Swan).  Now to get them wrapped, labelled and put under the tree.  [Oh, wait a minute, we haven't brought the tree into the house yet!]

tivoli4

Eight sleeps to go – need to and check my lists (twice).  Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow when we open the next door!

Diane :)

By Diane • December 16, 2014
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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 :)

By Diane • December 15, 2014
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My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar – 14 December (Et barn er født)

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!

14 DECEMBER

Today is Sunday, the third in Advent, so this morning the kids opened their third adventsgaver

…and we lit the third candle in our adventslysdekoration

How about a bit of Danish music today?  So far you’ve heard the ‘most played’ Danish Christmas song “Jul, det’ cool!” (a rap) and another about elves (and rats), “På loftet sidder nissen…”.  So let’s look at the archetypal Danish Christmas hymn, “Et Barn er født i Bethlehem” (A child is born in Bethlehem).  It’s one of the ones our family sings when walking around the Christmas tree after dinner on 24 December, just before the presents are handed out.  And a song you’ll hear in every single nursery, school and church.  If you are lucky enough to find an available seat in the church, that is.  The Danes are notchurchgoers – unless it’s Christmas!  Yep, most Danish churches have to bring in extra folding seats, to cope with the sudden demand… ;)

Anyway, seat or no seat, you can learn the psalm in a snap because it’s so simple – each verse contains just two lines (half of one of which is repeated) and then ”Halleluja, halleluja!”.  So even if you don’t speak Danish, can’t remember the words or your eyes can’t decipher the tiny letters on the hymn sheet, you can always join in with some hale and hearty hallelujas!

et barn

I can play it on the piano but, instead of torturing you with my own rendition, here it is, sung by Dario Campeotto….

If you want to have a go at singing it yourself, then go check out a nifty little site called the Online Danish Hymnbook – Den Danske Salmebog Online.  You can choose whether you want to be accompanied by a church organ or piano!

Okay, clear your throats and get ready to stand up and sing! Or do as the Danes do in church…and sit down and sing? ;) (Stand up, Sit down, Sing along!)

Et barn er født i Betlehem

Mel.: 15. årh. / Lossius 1553
Tysk visemelodi omkring 1600 / A.P. Berggreen 1849

1

Et barn er født i Betlehem,
thi glæde sig Jerusalem!
Halleluja, halleluja!

2

En fattig jomfru sad i løn
og fødte Himlens kongesøn.
Halleluja, halleluja!

3

Han lagdes i et krybberum,
Guds engle sang med fryd derom:
Halleluja, halleluja!

4

Og Østens vise ofred der
guld, røgelse og myrra skær.
Halleluja, halleluja!

5

Forvunden er nu al vor nød,
os er i dag en frelser fød.
Halleluja, halleluja!

6

Guds kære børn vi blev på ny,
skal holde jul i Himmel-by.
Halleluja, halleluja!

7

På stjernetæpper lyseblå
skal glade vi til kirke gå.
Halleluja, halleluja!

8

Guds engle der os lære brat
at synge, som de sang i nat:
Halleluja, halleluja!

9

Da vorde engle vi som de,
Guds milde ansigt skal vi se.
Halleluja, halleluja!

10

Ham være pris til evig tid
for frelser bold og broder blid!
Halleluja, halleluja!

Latin 14. årh. Tysk 1545. Dansk 1544. 1569.
N.F.S. Grundtvig 1820 og 1845.

* * * * * *

Amen!  And don’t forget to check back here tomorrow when we open the next door!

Diane :)

By Diane • December 14, 2014
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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 :)

By Diane • December 13, 2014
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My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar – 12 December (Handball and Winterbathing)

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!

12 DECEMBER

Just when the Danes are in the middle of stuffing themselves with æbleskiver and quaffing great quanties of snaps, julebryg and gløggthey seem to stop for a moment mid-December and forget about Christmas for a few days (or at least a few evenings) and everyone is glued to the telly.  Why?  Um, because the European Women’s Handball Championship is taking place right now.  And the Danes are c.r.a.z.y. about handball.  Not really surprising as the modern rules were made up by a Dane (a teacher at our local school) way back in 1898, and the Danes just seem to be very good at it.  Yep, interest here in Women’s handball is only surpassed by their interest in men’s handball – when the nation will once again be glued to their tellys in January.

Me?  Not a handball fan.  I get my kicks (as regular readers will know) from vinterbadning.  Winterbathing, skinny dipping in the Danish sea all year round! :)  Here’s a photo from this morning, about 8.15am, just as it was beginning to get light.

winterbathing

And here we are, after our second swim…sorry about the quality, but as well as being very blustery it was also raining heavily! :-P

Here’s a better photo I took last week of the Christmas tree.  Just hope it doesn’t blow away in tonight’s storm “Alexander”!

winterbathing1

The water has been really quite ‘warm’ so far this year – no sign of any snow or ice yet.  But to give you an idea of how extreme it can get, here’s a picture from when we were out swimming last January.  Note the snow and icicles on the steps…  You don’t have to be mad to be a winterbather but it helps! ;-)

Keep yourselves warm, batten down the hatches for tonight’s storm and don’t forget to check back here tomorrow when we open the next door!

Diane :)

By Diane • December 12, 2014
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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 crap cost 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! :-P

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 candle and 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 :)

By Diane • December 11, 2014
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My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar – 10 December (Cards and post)

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!

10 DECEMBER

I got an e-mail from my mentor, the Flylady, yesterday morning, reminding me to check my Christmas lists twice ;) and finish off those jobs that I’ve been procrastinating over. So today I got the last of the Christmas cards written, stamps on and they’re ready to pop in the postbox.

I always send one of the PostDanmark (the Danish postal service) special Christmas cards to my family and friends in Scotland.  Not cheap (at around DKR 39.95, UK£4.25, USD 6.50 ) but always a talking point.  And, more often than not, a building exercise!

They come in a cellophane packet.  Exhibit A.

And when you open the packet, it all comes spilling out.  Exhibit B.

And they always require (some fiddly) assembly by the recipient.  This year’s one, as I hope you can see, contains an envelope, a 3-D Christmas tree, a ‘tree mat’ (this is the ‘card’ where you can write a seasonal greeting or perhaps a “good luck with building!”) and eight (count ‘em) small boxes which will be the ‘gifts’ under the tree.  Cute or kitsch, you decide! :-P

xmastree

Just remember to post your cards in good time (last posting dates are here).  Especially if, like me, the price of Danish stamps makes you reach for the smelling salts and you therefore send everything B-post (second class).

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

Diane :)

By Diane • December 10, 2014
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Diane's Daily Denmark

Diane

Daily Denmark...living with those crazy Danes! Never serious, always informative. A Scot who fell in love with a Dane while working in Luxembourg. Permanently settled in Copenhagen and Mum to two little Vikings. I ♥ Denmark!