3 ways to hygge up your Christmas and celebrate the festive season the Danish way!
As I cycle through Copenhagen on my route home from classes I start to realise that Denmark is the place to be at Christmas. On my rides to and from University in the city, I have keenly observed the steady construction of markets and the putting-up of the Christmas lights around the city. It may be drizzly, cold and dark (the sun starts to set just after 3pm here) but the Danes have a solution: hygge. Peddling home, as the daylight ebbs away, I see the comforting glow of candles coming from café windows. Copenhagen is the capital of hygge or ‘cosy togetherness,’ and this is most hyggelig time of year. The Danes are great lovers of traditions and at this time of year they have even more of them. I’ve picked out three of my favourites that could help us to make our own Christmases a little more hygge.
- Make your own Christmas decorations
You can picture the scene: sitting together with your family or your friends in a little cave of candle light making surrounded by the sound of cheesy Christmas classics and the small of gløgg (mulled wine) bubbling on the hob. Making julehjerter (Christmas hearts) while snacking on æbleskiver (ball-shaped pancakes served with jam and icing sugar). Julehejerter are paper hearts woven out of two cut-outs of paper to make the heart shape.
If you want to decorate in true Scandinavian style, keep it minimalist and nature-inspired. The main colour scheme here is the Danish colours of red and white as well as silver, gold and green. Most of the time spent at home during the Christmas period is during the hours of darkness so candles are an essential!
Here’s how to make them: http://www.bitsofivory.com/2016/12/21/danish-heart-baskets/
- Make risalamande (Danish Rice Pudding)
Risalamande is a luxurious twist on English rice pudding. This time with vanilla, almonds. It is part rice pudding and part whipped cream, served with hot cherry sauce.
Eating risalamande is a social as well as a delicious experience. Risalamande contains lots of chopped almonds but hidden in the bowl there is one whole almond. When the risalamande is served, you can also play an adorable Danish game – ‘Who can find the mandelgaven (almond present)?’. Whoever finds the almond gets a prize. However, if you find it you also need to keep it a secret until the end of the game. There will inevitably be inquisitive questions – “it’s you, isn’t it?!” and you will inevitably have to finish the whole bowl!
- Julenisse (Christmas elves)– a sweet alternative to Secret Santa
For the month of December, Nisse, small elf-like characters from Scandinavian folklore, are roaming about and causing mischief. At the beginning of December, me and all of my flat mates pulled names out of a hat in order to find out who would be who’s ‘nisse’ for the month. Everyone’s secret ‘nisse’ will leave surprise gifts for them throughout the month of December. But these creatures are also mischievous, and pranks will also be played…
These three Christmas traditions are hyggelig in themselves, but they are also hyggelig because they are traditions. Traditions evoke fond memories of past times shared with friends and family. Festive decorations, good food, and cosy activities can help to create hygge but most importantly hygge is about a shared experience with people we care about. I think that we can take something valuable from the Danish way of doing Christmas and put some hygge into our own festive season.
All photos her own