Christmas Preparations in Scandinavia

Christmas Preparations in Scandinavia

Because Scandinavian Christmas is so special, a great deal of time must be spent preparing for it, and this too is part of its aura.

The illustration below is reminiscent of my own childhood, when the preparations for Christmas included the baking of "lefse" on a giant skillet heated by burning wood in an open fireplace... It was considered a normal part of the preparations in rural Norway in days gone by - and some still preserve the tradition today.

As early as the first Sunday in December, the Christmas decorations are gotten out and gone over; those beyond repair are thrown away and new ones made, familiar ones refurbished. (Some of these are generations old, originally woven and strung together by young hands now grown bony and wrinkled.)

In the days that follow - as part of the Christmas Preparations - the house is cleaned, the shopping done, the candles bought.

Christmas Preparations in Scandinavia

From ovens issue hundreds of cookies, yellow with butter or dark with syrup and redolent of cloves and ginger-pebernodder in Denmark, pepparkakor in Sweden. Into boiling fat are dropped the brandy-flavored ribbons of dough that appear throughout Scandinavia under different names - but everywhere are consumed with equal zest.

During this period of Christmas Preparations in Scandinava, all the many food traditions come to the fore - and Scandinavian hospitality expands. National differences melt away in the good feeling that prevails throughout the area, and in an overlapping of Christmas customs, the Scandinavians can seem like one people instead of several. There is an often-repeated saying that the Christmas spirit must not be allowed to leave the house.

And the only sure way to guarantee that it will not, so the belief goes, is to offer every visitor, even the stranger who comes to the door, some little tidbit to eat. No one would be so witless as to refuse and thus break the spell and carry the Christmas spirit away.

At Christmastime Scandinavians brighten their homes and trim their trees with distinctive ornaments. Typical are the straw yule goat, star, paper angel and starbursts.

Scandinavian Cooking

Christmas Preparations in Scandinavia

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Scandinavian Christmas is that it is, in every respect, an old-fashioned Christmas. Here - and real - are all the ingredients that elsewhere go into the fabrication of a nostalgic Christmas scene:

An Old Fashioned Christmas - With Snow!

Christmas Preparations in Scandinavia

"the snow piled up on the rooftops and yeasting out over the eaves", the bowl of hot punch, glogg, sending up wreaths of steam and flame, the gingerbread houses and the gingerbread men and women, the Christmas tree with flickering candles on it and with children dancing around it, singing carols and hymns.

To confront such a tree for the first time is to have some chord of memory struck, to recall an image from Hans Christian Andersen's "The Fir Tree," read aloud a long time ago by someone . . . by whom ~ A teacher? Mother?

"From its branches . . . hung little nets cut out of colored paper, and each net was filled with candies.

Gilded apples and walnuts hung in clusters as if they grew there, and a hundred little white, blue, and even red, candies were fastened to its twigs.

Among its green branches swayed dolls. . . . And up at its very top was set a large gold tinsel star.

It was splendid, I tell you, splendid beyond all words! "

The Fir Tree

Æbleskiver and More: A Sampling of Danish Recipes

Christmas Preparations in Scandinavia

Rural Winter Scene in Southern Norway
Picture taken by the webmaster on a personal visit to Norway

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