Here ye, here ye! Let the Christmas festivities commence! In fact, let them commence last week, there's no rush. The opening Christmas salvo? A julefrokost (in English, a Christmas lunch), sort of like the Norwegian julebord which Scholiast describes, except...well, pretty much like the Norwegian julebord which Scholiast describes! It's common for people to have multiple Julefrokosts each year, for example, one with the work as a whole, another for each department or project group, one for each circle of friends, one with each section of their family, one with each social group or club, you get the idea. As a result, the julefrokost season starts in mid-November, and continues well into January, just because everything gets booked up for December.
As I'm a social isolate (well, no, but it can seem that way on occasion) with a rather tangential relation to my employer, I only have the one julefrokost, with a section of Thor's family. We met up, as is the custom, at about 2pm, and spent several hours together eating and drinking and, well, being increasingly merry. This went on a surprisingly short time, until about 8pm, and the general level of sobriety was relatively high. This is comparing to last year, where we were not at all the last ones to leave, at around 11:30, and where at least one participant had to be held upright so that she could say goodnight to us without falling over. This may be just that it was in someone's house last year. This year, we were more traditional, and met in a small, candle-lit (and therefore very hyggelig) restaurant. I've taken some very badly-lit pictures (did I mention the restaurant was dark?) which I will share with you. As I have no one's permission to post their photos on blog, I'll make do with unattractive pictures of very tasty food and drink.
Eating: You can see the overall spread (it was a buffet) at the top of the post. Basically, the traditional Christmas thing, which means smørrebrød. The herring is in the front, along with some other fish dishes. After one has one's fish, then there are the meat dishes in the back. There is also some cheese for the third round, and risalamande with kirsebærsovs (cherry sauce) for dessert.
The star of the show is the flæskesteg, or roast pork. No, I lie, the star of the show is the crackling (flæskesvær in Danish), which is the crispy, incredibly fatty skin of the beast. I'm not kidding about it being fatty. I find the first bite of svær is sublime, the second one is not bad, the third bite is like eating a spoonful of lard. That's when I start offering the rest of mine to others at the table, and that's when I become the most popular person in the room. Until I run out, that is. Those Danes are serious about their crackling.
More eating:Why is it that the best foods look so intrinsically bad? This is the risalamande with kirsebærsovs. It's a rice pudding, with generous addition of slivered almonds. Traditionally, there should be a whole almond thrown into the pudding; the person who gets this whole almond is then given a 'mandelgave' or 'almond gift'. Thankfully this is not done by restaurants. It sounds a great idea for competitive people, but my one experience with it is that you can't enjoy your food, as each and every almond sliver could be 'the one', meaning that you spend several seconds with each spoonful gumming each and every almond to make sure you don't accidently mangle the winning token. Not that any Dane would admit to finding the almond at any point, to let everyone off the hook. Of course, any self-respecting Dane will have a whole almond in their pocket anyway, to show at the end of the pudding course, along with everyone else at the table showing their almonds brought from home...it's amazing anyone can ever actually prove that their's was the real thing. However, take away the needless competition, and what's left is one of the world's classic desserts.
Drinking:Snaps and beer. That's about it. If you're odd like me, and don't like either of these things, then other drinks may be provided. Not drinking alcohol is also perfectly acceptable, though it is harder to get into the spirit of things (pun intended) if everyone is pissed except you.
Being merry: It was the spirit of things that got the 'gående pik' (or walking dick) put in the above photo. This would be the category of being merry...there were different shaped packages waiting for all of us when we got to the table. They all contained a tiny pair of folding scissors, except for Thor's Dad's package, which contained this cute toy. There was also the singing portion of the evening, which was blessedly brief. Though the verse where we were wearing fake buck teeth (made with brown sugar cubes with a line drawn down the middle, surprisingly effective in the dim light) was highly amusing (and too embarassing to even keep, much less post, photos of).
So, that's the opening of the Danish Christmas season...what about you? Has your Christmas begun yet, and if so, how?