Today is already the second day of Christmas and while some are already preoccupied with making a list of resolutions for the new year, I am still enjoying the memory of days passed. This year I did not spend the holidays with my family back home and somehow it didn’t turn out to be that bad. It seems that spending Christmas with your loved one plus a few good friends can be a successful holiday recipe too.
Just like every year, for the last four Christmases spent in Denmark, the holiday spirit starts way early on the 1st of December. That is when Copenhagen gets its Christmas tree and also when millions of lights lit up on the streets. It has been somehow an awkward feeling at the beginning, considering that in my culture you only buy and decorate a tree on Christmas Eve, but you know the saying “when you’re in Rome, do as the Romans”…and so I did! I have taken upon myself to fully integrate into the Danish Christmas spirit from the very beginning of December “decorationally” speaking, as well as food wise.
One very important aspect of Danish Christmas tradition is the “Julefrokost”. This is basically a Christmas lunch which, despite its name, you can have it from the middle of November until some time passed the New Year. Regular Danes have to attend at least four or five of these until Christmas day and trust me…. It’s no easy task! The amount of food and drinks at a Julefrokost may easily be compared to a food eating competition and might give some people a hard time wanting to ever attend such feasts. But not me!
My first Julefrokost was 3 years ago and unfortunately, no one told me what to expect. I had received an invitation to what was supposed to be a small “get together” dinner and I was told to bring something to drink. There were some new international friends who invited me to join them at this dinner, so I suspect they had no idea what will happen either. Anyway, long story short, there where around six or seven dishes in total and a lot of Snaps to be digested that night. Since then, I have decided to organize my own Julefrokost every year, with fewer dishes (not to scare people off ) but with the same traditional Danish food.
Traditional Danish food is not extremely varied but most of it is damn right delicious. I have still not made peace with the ‘potatoes on rye bread’ thing but “smørrebrød” (open sandwich) is one of my favourite dishes. Christmas food is more pork oriented if I may say so. You usually have around four types of pork meat that you can cook as the main dish. And what goes better next to some pork steak ?!… Pork sausage, of course! All garnished with some very sweet potatoes (caramelised actually) and a shot of Snaps.
One other aspect of the “Viking Christmas” style is fish. Lots of fish and seafood, prepared in the weirdest way possible. You have the sweetly marinated herring which can also be in some kind of curry sauce (never managed to eat that one), and then you have either herring, flat-fish or salmon fried pané and almost always you have to have shrimps. Most of these dishes are eaten on top of rye bread with additional sauces.
After you’ve been through most of these dishes you should also expect dessert. The most common dish is probably “Risalamande”, which is basically a rice pudding with chopped almonds inside, served with a warm sour-cherry sauce. This is something that I eat throughout the year as well because I can never get enough of it. It is a tedious dish to prepare though, considering you need four to five hours, but I always feel like it’s worth it.
All in all, a Julefrokost is mostly about getting together with family and friends and maybe less about the food in Danish culture. For us foreigners, I think both reasons play equal parts and we probably enjoy it as much as they do.
I enjoy preparing a Julefrokost for my friends every year and most probably I will stick to this tradition for as long as I will live here in Denmark.