“It’s Christmas Eve! It’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be.” – Bill Murray
We’re in Denmark for the holidays, where the day before Christmas is a lot more than just the day before the main event.
It’s sort of the main event itself.
In the land of bicycles and hygge, Christmas is traditionally celebrated on the evening of December 24th. Families get together for a meal of roast goose or pork, accompanied by red cabbage and boiled potatoes with gravy. After dinner, everyone goes to see the tree. A Christmas tree covered with real candles, yes real candles lit and burning!
It’s not what’s under the Christmas tree that matters, it’s who’s around it
It’s then that Danes join hands to dance and sing around the tree (yes, the one with burning candles). They dance clockwise for one song and then counter-clockwise for the next one.
It’s only after this the presents are handed out.
So all day kids are waiting for the presents, which for some, where families are eating and drinking till late (a common occurrence), presents can be opened as late as 10 pm.
It sounds almost cruel to those brought up in a society where kids rush downstairs on Christmas day to rip open presents as soon as they’re awake.
All in good time
Imagine being a kid, knowing you can have your presents, but only when you’ve waited all day, are stuffed full of pork and have danced around the tree?
Imagine being so tired you won’t remember if it was Uncle Adrian or Uncle Ian who gave you that skateboard? Or so tired you won’t be able to play with the toys you might get as you can’t keep your eyes open…
But wait, there’s more…
After you’ve opened the presents you then eat a dessert of rice pudding, mmmm.
Sound like torture? It certainly would for many kids around the world.
Though there’s a certain charm to it all. A charm that includes patience, a focus on family time, and traditions not lost in a world of commercialism.
Yet many around the world would love the opportunity for such as wonderfully inclusive Christmas with no presents until the end of the day.
When you have more than you need, build a longer table not a higher fence
It’s estimated 14.3 million people live in poverty in the UK. That’s almost 3 times the population of Denmark.
The UK government estimate one million children aged 10 and under are set to miss out on basics such as warm clothing and fresh food over the month of December.
It’s 2019 and hard for me to comprehend this at times. Especially from the place I live with my family now.
Denmark looks after it’s people, it’s not perfect, yet the need for charities and volunteers is very light compared to a place like the UK.
In part, it’s down to culture, and as a family we’re rapidly going off the British culture of money being the currency of choice, not happiness. It’s a culture with a best before date, and sadly one many other western countries favour.
Thankfully, not so much in Denmark.
A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together
So we’re doing a partly Danish Christmas this year, one where Christmas eve is about spending time with family (we have my wife’s parents staying with us) and a glorious meal.
We’ll do presents on Christmas day (we’re not quite ready to tell our kiddo’s they can have there presents, but not until the evening…)
We’re also not brave enough to have real candles burning on our real Christmas tree…
But walk past our house around 7 pm on the 24th December, and you might just see us hand in hand dancing around a tree under the dim glow of LED lights.
Christmas is, of course, the time to be home, in heart as well as body
Whatever your celebration this time of year, I hope you have a fantastic one. One with friends and family.
Ada Hendricks says it best:
“May you have the gladness of Christmas which is hope; The spirit of Christmas which is peace; The heart of Christmas which is love.” – Ada V. Hendricks
I hope you enjoyed this episode of Notes from a Small Country? Please give me feedback directly or in the comments. Which part was your favourite? What do you want to see more or less of? Other suggestions? Let me know!
See you next time for Episode 14.
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