O.K., before I change them, let me repeat the rules for the original meme, which the prolifically entrancing Smiler so kindly requested. Though apparently, it's not a 'meme', but a 'hoopla', as the original 'm' word is perhaps overrated, or wrong, or maybe just a wee bit annoying. Smiler has tagged me in order that I might give my own insights on what it is to celebrate Christmas in Denmark.
1. List 12 random things about yourself that have to do with Christmas.
2. Please refer to it as a ‘hoopla’ and not the dreaded ‘m’-word.
3. You have to specifically tag people when you’re done. None of this “if you’re reading this, consider yourself tagged” stuff is allowed…then nobody ends up actually doing it. The number of people who you tag is really up to you — but the more, the merrier to get this ‘hoopla’ circulating through the Blog-o-sphere.
4. Don't forget to link back to the person who tagged you.
5. Please try and do it as quickly as possible. The Christmas season will be over before we know it.
Now, here are some alterations. I'm no expert on Danish Christmas, having only been in Denmark for one of them, which was rather hazy and jetlaggy (I'd only just moved to Denmark two days previously, after a month visit to California). I have been around both before and after the twenty-erm, somethingth of December (more on this in item #1), so will be blogging about the holiday season (broadly speaking) in Denmark, from Christmas preparations to the New Year, which should also help make it all a bit more timely. And I really prefer 'meme' to 'hoopla'. Not sure why that is (well, actually I am sure, but it would take a post of it's own to explain), but there you have it. Otherwise, I'm following all the rules exactly as they are.
1. As I never tire of telling the Danes, they celebrate Christmas on the wrong day. By which I mean the 24th. Because who can resist sparring over something where both sides are convinced they are right, knowing that no one will ever be converted? When a Dane says Christmas, they mean the 24th, and not the 25th. Which is 1st Christmas Day (logical as it comes before the 26th, which is 2nd Christmas Day).
2. It's not Christmas without Christmas eating events with each and every circle of one's life, events called by the name 'Christmas Lunch' (julefrokost...more on that here). They can be simple or elaborate, and can happen as early as November, or increasingly, as late as January, just because all the good eating places book up for December. My small section of my work hasn't had one, but we are to start (this January) thanks to the efforts of a colleague who successfully made a connection between access to a work julefrokost and basic human rights. And she's not really that far off, in a Danish cultural context.
3. There are as many traditions for New Year's Eve as for Christmas Eve (erm, make that Christmas). My favorite is coming to be the Queen's speech. Margrethe II isn't the only monarch to make a yearly speech, but I believe she is the only one who does so live. Which leads to some interesting gaffes (from last night, apparently, this is time not only to greet 2008, but also to bid farewell to 2006...the subtitles said 2007, but she definitely said otherwise). I have come to believe that the New Year cannot be brought in without that 6 o'clock speech, and will even go so far as to borrow a television in order to watch it.
4. The other big reason to have a television on New Year's Eve is the (in my non-Danish opinion) not very exciting Dinner for One. This is always on right before midnight. 'The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?' 'The same procedure as every year, James.' The best part is the extent to which everyone in the room (particularly the guys) knows every line, every drunken gaffe, and every interaction with the tiger-skin rug, discussing every move many seconds in advance.
5. I know of very few Danes who will allow themselves to pick a Christmas present at random; most people seem to make wish lists. Though I haven't for the past couple of years, and it seems to have worked out o.k. for me. Maybe this isn't the oddity, maybe the oddity is that my family doesn't make such lists.
6. It's all about food. I know that is true for any holiday (well, it is to me anyway), but especially for New Year's Eve. There seems to be a rule that the 31st of December is about decadence in food and drink, multiple courses, amazing desserts, alcohol in both quantity and quality. Which leads to all the effects you might imagine from such over-indulgence. This year's menu consisted of whole roasted sirloin accompanied by roasted red onions (marinated with a star anise and balsamic vinegar dressing), olive-infused mashed potatoes, parsley root salad with sun-dried tomatoes, and parsley pesto. That was just the main course. The only complaint was that I couldn't have all of the dessert (I'm of course not drinking at the moment, only tasting, so had to settle for only a spoonful of the homemade gin and tonic sorbet, which was really really good).
7. Christmas is also always about food, but the menu is pretty standardized. Roast duck or roast pork (with the skin). Various sidings. And risalamande with kirsebærsovs (erm, rice pudding with almonds topped with a cherry sauce). There should be a whole almond in the pudding, only one. The one who finds the almond gets a special 'almond present'. Apparently in some households, it's rigged so that each child gets an almond, and thus, a present. I'm not quite sure how I feel about that, but I suppose I still have a few short years to think about it.
8. On the other hand, Christmas in Denmark is all about kids. Maybe this is true everywhere, but I didn't grow up with Christmas (well, I didn't grow up without it, but as a non-Christian from a non-Christian family, it's not my holiday), so I'm not sure. Here, it is. I have lots of (adult) students who say that only the kids in their family get presents for example. Which I cannot countenance...adults need presents, too! Though I find no fault if the kids get more presents, or more elaborate ones. This says nothing about Denmark, but Thor and I have sort-of accepted that we may never be able to travel outside of Denmark over Christmas again. Something about grandparents, quality time with the new granddaughter, and vague threats of mafia hit men, I'm not sure I understand exactly what it's all about, but I have an understanding of the end result. Namely, that I'll have more to say about Christmas in Denmark after next year.
9. All holiday events may be marked by the giving of really silly gag gifts. Sometimes, games are played in order to win these silly gifts. Although I no longer remember the rules, I do remember a memorable julefrokost where two of Thor's relatives (well, a relative and the girlfriend of a relative) engaged in a game-long feud over who would end up with the present that Thor and I brought (which wasn't any less silly than any other gift, but it was the biggest, and so maybe seemed more likely to not be quite as silly). But that was the exception. Normally, silly gifts can be fun. We're still working out how to use that apple slicer/peeler/corer we got at our last Christmas occasion. We have not yet found a use for the plastic-broccoli topped knives stuck in the plastic broccoli sculpture...any ideas?
10. I miss eggnog, but I am somewhat contented with having gløgg. And especially æbleskiver. No, especially the combination. Thor's mom has a gløgg party every December, with homemade everything, and it is a highlight of the season. I could describe them in depth, but I might end up having to make some myself, and the stores aren't open today. So, it's best not to risk it.
11. The third reason to have a television for New Year's Eve is of course to know when it is officially midnight. And then, to see a live broadcast of a chorus of young women who sing a couple of hymns. The same hymns every year. As far as I can see, it's an excuse for everyone to sing along (the hymns are subtitled, and after a while, I suppose one learns the tunes) drunkenly and off-key. It's also a time for unattached men to comment on which of the singers seems particularly nice-looking.
12. After 'Dinner for One', after the clocks have struck midnight and the hymns have been sung (and to some extent before), everyone goes out and lights fireworks. Everyone. Thousands of fireworks. It's the most amazing thing. Even in the suburbs, even out in the boonies. It goes on for hours. Then the next day, the newspapers report on whether it was a good or a bad year for firework related death and destruction (this year, apparently there weren't as many eye injuries as in the past). You can see something that is in fact fireworks in the photo at the top of this post. The deeper message of this photo is that I got my first 'real' camera for Christmas, and clearly don't know what to do with it. The food photo is from the same camera, but not taken by me, which might explain the obvious difference in quality.
So, that's about it. For more traditions and such, please look here. And now, to the tagging. I hereby tag the following bloggers to blog about the holiday of your choice in the form of 12 facts. You may choose to label it a hoopla or a meme, and can of course blog about Christmas or something more timely. I look forward to seeing what you come up with, Devil Mood, Scholiast, Roro, Dok Holocaust, and Vanessa.