Decorations, dancing, family, and twinkling fairy lights have become synonymous with Christmas, but did you know many Denmark holiday traditions were passed down from the Vikings? Before Christianity reached Denmark, our Viking ancestors celebrated the winter solstice with feasts and parties similar to today’s holiday celebrations. Jul — the Danish word for Christmas — evolved from Jól, the ancient Norse winter solstice festival.
Julefrokost, a Danish Midwinter Feast
Julefrokost roughly translates to “all-day Christmas feast” in English. During December, Danes attend a string of convivial lunches with friends, family, and colleagues. Apart from the warmth and joy of family and sharing, they relish delicious Danish Christmas food. Before Christianity, Denmark Jul traditions centered around the winter solstice. Vikings would feast for days, sacrificing to the gods of abundance and farming to ensure a fruitful new year. Modern Danish feasts are just as hearty!
Advent and Christmas Markets in Denmark
The Christmas season starts early in Denmark, with many bars and pubs throwing J-Dag celebrations on the first Friday in November, marking the day that Tuborg’s classic Julebryg (Christmas beer) is released. This is a special day because this beer is one of the most popular Tuborg beers but it is only on the market for ten weeks of the year.
On December 1, many families light a kalenderlys – a tall candle printed with numbers 1-24 that count down the days to Christmas as it burns.
Midwinter holidays in Denmark are sprinkled with gifting, as many people choose to give each other presents on every Sunday of Advent. Christmas markets are the perfect place for shopping during this busy season.
The Danish Christmas Tree
The Christmas tree originated in Germany, but Danes have been decorating trees during winter since pre-Christian times. Viking winter solstice traditions were all about bringing light and joy to loved ones during the darkest month of the year. Originally, Vikings decorated trees with wooden or cloth representations of their gods, but today, decorations have become more patriotic. Danish flags and julehjerte (woven paper Christmas hearts) are essential for a Danish Christmas tree.
One decoration that has stood the test of time is candles. Winter is very dark in Denmark, and burning candles symbolizes the gradual return of light. Danes love to decorate their Christmas trees with real candles, just like the Vikings did centuries ago. Burning an apple- or pecan-scented candle while sipping steaming Danish coffee in a cozy home filled with family will satisfy your hearts with Christmas hygge!
Christmas Eve in Denmark
Christmas Eve is a central feast during the holidays in Denmark. On December 24, families gather to eat, drink, and share gifts. After dinner, everyone moves to the living room to sing carols and hymns while holding hands and dancing around the tree. “Nu Er Det Jul Igen,” which translates to “Now It Is Christmas Again,” is a traditional Danish Christmas song people have been singing since the 18th century.
Santa Lucia Day
On December 13, children in Denmark take part in Santa Lucia parades to remember and celebrate Saint Lucia, or Lucy, who was a 3rd century Christian martyr from Italy. Like many Danish holidays, Santa Lucia glows with candles and conviviality. A young girl wearing a crown of candles leads a procession of people dressed in white, each carrying a flickering candle. After the festivities, families often enjoy traditional Danish cakes and pastries. Try them for yourself with our Christmas Hygge Kringle package.
Nytår - Danish New Year’s Eve
Danish New Year traditions almost always involve fireworks, feasting, and jumping from a chair. The tradition of “jumping into the New Year” usually has everyone rushing to find a surface to stand on during the countdown. As the clock strikes midnight, Danes collectively hop from their positions and continue the celebration. This fun tradition is said to bring good luck for the year ahead and creates a sense of joy, excitement, and belonging.
Danish Christmas Desserts
On Christmas Eve, families make risalamande, a creamy rice pudding drizzled with cherry sauce and almond flakes. The host usually hides a whole almond in the dish for one lucky guest to find. The guest who finds the almond often wins a prize and, according to tradition, finding the almond signifies good luck! Inspired by risalamande, our Very Danish Christmas Kringle offers an authentic taste of Denmark with cherries and a delightful almond filling.
Other traditional Danish Christmas desserts are lagkage (Danish layer cakes) and kransekage – a tall “wreath” of Danish ring cakes. Danes also enjoy aebleskiver throughout the midwinter holidays. These traditional pancake balls are a deliciously decadent treat with powdered sugar and lingonberries.
Order Authentic Danish Holiday Desserts Online
Fill your family gatherings with hygge this year by adding delicious, sweet pastries and desserts from O&H Danish Bakery. We deliver our scratch-made Christmas Kringles and cakes directly to your door. Order online or find a store near you to bring the taste of Denmark to your table. Our family is ready to spoil yours!