In Denmark Christmas is celebrated on December 24th. Preparations begin several weeks before Christmas Eve with the baking of cookies, breads and sweets, the making of gifts and the visiting of friends and family.
Christmas Eve is a special time. At this time parents secretly decorate the Christmas tree with home made wood and straw baubles. The children are only able to see the tree before dinner when it is lit up and the family gathers to sing carols and hymns.
The main Christmas meal in Denmark is eaten on Christmas Eve. It begins with ‘ris á la mande’ (a special kind of rice pudding, made of milk, rice, vanilla, almonds and whipped cream) that has a magic almond inside. Whoever finds the almond receives a small Christmas gift. After dinner, family and friends get together in the parlor where they sing and dance around the tree. Finally, gifts are exchanged and opened as cookies, chocolate, nuget, marzipan, sweets and wine are passed around.
In Denmark, children beleive that their Christmas gifts are brought by the ‘Julemanden’ (‘Christmas Man’). He looks very similar to Santa Claus and also travels with a sleigh and reindeer. He lives in Greenland, likes rice pudding and is helped by ‘nisser’ who are similar to elves.