The Danes have a word – hygge – that describes “a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special”. Although a range of situations and sentiments may be labelled as “hygge”, it applies perfectly to one time of year in particular: the holiday season. After all, there are few occasions that are more delightful (or perhaps dysfunctional…) than Christmas with your loved ones.
While you may be partial to putting your feet up and spending Christmas at home, you’ll find that Denmark takes the peace, togetherness and joy of the holiday season to a whole new level – especially when it comes to food and drink. If you’re ready to take a one-year hiatus from your traditions and opt for a truly memorable Christmas, here’s a tasty glimpse into Denmark’s fantastic festivities.
The Danes love Christmas – so much, in fact, that they start celebrating on the first Friday of November. Every year, the famous Danish brewery Tuborg starts selling its Christmas beer on this day, which is known as Julebryg or Juleøl. This seasonal beverage is stronger and maltier than its year-round counterparts, and is often enhanced with spices, such as cinnamon and/or vanilla. It’s only when you take your first sip of this festive tipple that the holidays have truly begun. So, what are you waiting for? Skål!
The flavours of Christmas are not only available in a glass, but also come on a plate. Wash down your beer with the traditional cuisine, which doesn’t just make an appearance at dinner – no, there’s a festive lunch, too!
Lunches & Parties: To maximise indulgence and quality time with friends and family, many Danes will attend and host several lunches and parties (Julefrokost) throughout December. This tradition spreads the Christmas cheer nice and early, and enables you to take part in food-oriented celebrations with everyone you care about. Typical dishes include plaice, herring, smoked salmon, shrimp, meat balls and rice pudding (risengrød). Due to the widespread popularity of these celebrations, it’s common for restaurants and hotels to organise similar festivities for visitors. Just remember to book your place early!
Dinner: Although Danes love their fish, a pork roast takes the spotlight on Christmas Eve. (In modern times, it’s also common to have a duck or goose roast, though.) The meat is complemented with winter vegetables, such as cabbage and potatoes, and is covered with generous amounts of gravy. If you’re still hungry after this carbalicious feast, you’ve definitely done something wrong.
The conventional Christmas meal is finished off with a hearty portion of rice pudding, which is served either hot or cold. When you’ve made your way through the toppings of whipped cream, cherry sauce, cinnamon and/or vanilla, keep your eyes peeled for a single almond, which is always hidden in the pudding – if you discover it in your portion, you get an extra present!
Although just reading about this festive feast may be enough to put you into a food coma, there’s more: all throughout December, expect to eat cookies… and lots of them. From marzipan to ginger bread to oatmeal cookies, prepare to try a jaw-dropping amount of varieties. Many families even designate one day in early December to baking together, often filling their kitchen with enough baked goods to feed a whole army. Why not try a few – or lots – of the locals’ favourites at one of the famous Christmas markets?
While exhilarating your taste buds with these foods and drinks should be your first priority, they’re only a drop in the ocean compared to Denmark’s full range of culinary creations. Let us know what your favourite dining experience was when you’ve eaten your way through the country… which is sure to be absolutely hygge!