Wednesday, December 26, 2007
As I already mentioned, Christmas is a HUGE deal here in Denmark. However, Santa is not a big part of the celebration. Instead, you will see lots of Nisser decorating store-front windows and Christmas displays. Nisser are Scandinavian relatives of the pixie, the gnome, the elf and the imp and wear grey trousers (or grey skirt for Mrs. Nisse), wooden shoes and a long pointed red cap.
Advent is celebrated here in Denmark – you see advent wreathes everywhere. Children keep highly decorated advent calendars. They open the windows of their advent calendars to find a small gift, a piece of chocolate or perhaps an inexpensive toy.
Another important part of Danish Christmas Celebration is the Christmas brew. Danish breweries add to the spirit of Christmas by creating their own specially brewed Julebryg, or 'Christmas Brew'. Not to be outdone, Aalborg Akvavit comes out with a limited edition of 'Christmas snaps' . And, in case beer and snaps isn’t your thing, there is Gløgg, a potent variant of mulled red wine, served steaming hot and heavily spiced with raisins, almonds, cinnamon sticks and cloves steeped in pure aquavit or snaps.
Drink is an important part of the Danish Christmas celebration, but food is too. It is no surprise that sweets are a big part of it. Here are a few of my favorites:
Klejner, (flour, butter, egg and lemon cut into elongated rectangles, knotted in special way it's impossible to describe, and finally deep fried), brune kager (gingerbread dough sliced thinly, flattened and sprinkled with finely chopped nuts) and pebbernødder (small round cookies made of dough spiced with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and baked hard). Add to these, marzipan animals, fruit and nisser and the traditional accompaniment to gløgg: Æbleskiver, which are a special kind of doughnut usually served with a dusting of icing sugar and a heavy dollop of blackcurrant jam. Duck and goose are the preferred meats for Christmas Eve dinner and red cabbage is the appropriate side dish.
Here are a few recipes I found to make these wonderful Danish delights!
Ris à l'amande
4 oz (120 g) Patna rice
1 1/4 pints (3/4 l) water
½ vanilla pod
½-3/4 pint (3-4 dl) whipping cream
3-3½ oz (75-100 g) finely chopped almonds
2 tablesp. sugarcanned or bottled cherries
Cook the rice in the water until tender, together with the vanilla pod and sugar. Stir in half the cream and the chopped almonds. Whip the rest of the cream and fold into the mixture. Serve cold with slightly heated preserved cherries.
It is a Danish custom to hide a whole almond in the rice. The lucky person who finds the almond receives a small prize.
Æbleskiver - Danish Doughnuts
1/4-½ pint (2½ dl) cream
½ lb (250 g) flour
3-4 tablesp. stout
1 tablesp. sugar
6 oz (175 g) butter
1 teasp. lemon juice
½ teasp. cardamom
Beat the cream and flour together and beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Stir in the stout, sugar and cooled, melted butter. Flavor with lemon juice and stir in the stiffly beaten egg whites. Allow to stand for a while. Place a little butter in the hollows of a doughnut pan (the butter is necessary for the first batch only), and fry the doughnuts, turning on all sides until brown. Serve hot, sprinkled with icing sugar and raspberry or strawberry jam.
Brune kager - Brown Cookies
It is recommended to make the dough a couple of days before the actual baking.
1 lb (450 g) syrup
9 oz (250 g) butter
9 oz (250 g) brown sugar
1 oz bitter orange peel
1 tablesp. cinnamon
1 tablesp. ground cloves
½ teasp. cardamom
1 teasp. baking powder
2 tablesp. rosewater
2 lb (1 kg) flour
Warm the syrup in a saucepan, add the butter, orange peel, spices and sugar. Stir in the baking powder, dissolved in the rosewater. Gradually add the flour, kneading thoroughly after each addition. Turn into a bowl, cover with a cloth and keep cold.
Before baking, roll out thinly and cut into rounds. Place well apart on a greased baking-sheet, brush with water and decorate with sliced almonds. Bake for 8-10 min. at 400o F (200o C).
Pebernødder - Peppernuts
1 cup butter
1-1/3 scant cups sugar
4 cups flour
1 tablesp. soda
1 tablesp. ginger
1/2 tablesp. anise extract
1/4 tablesp. nutmeg
1/2 tablesp. salt
1/2 tablesp. cinnamon
½ cup sorghum
½ tablesp. vanilla
Work all ingredients together and roll in tiny balls about the size of a nickel. Put on cookie sheet. Bake 9-10 minutes at 300o F. Quantity depends on size of the nuts.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Now, the bad news: Well, it was bound to happen. I was hit by a car while riding home from work. I was riding through an intersection (I had the green light) and a car hit me while turning right. I am fine – I was riding slowly and managed to fall away from the car (which drove right past me and never even stopped!). I was a bit shaken but managed to ride the rest of the way home. I was especially upset because a mother and her two-year old (who was riding on her bike behind her) was recently hit by a car turning right about two blocks from where I work. Sadly, the mother was killed and the child is in critical condition.
I am trying to think of ways to make myself move visible while riding – I have a large light on the front and back of my bike, but my coat, helmet, and helmet are black (not ideal for riding in the dark). I may look for some clip-on lights to put on my backpack and street-side arm. We’ll see. I still have to look good while I ride, although, it is hard to look cool while picking yourself and your groceries up from the middle of the road, regardless of how stylish you are dressed!
Monday, December 17, 2007
...one little present accompanying the others made the journey "naked". Here is Robyn and her new pal, Cinnamon:
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Street decorations on Stroget. The Danes use hearts for Christmas decorations.
The sidewalks are crowded with flower vendors selling Christmas flowers -- tulips are just in!
The Royal Copenhagen and George Jensen stores on Stroget were beautifully decorated inside and out!
No one can escape the decorating in Copenhagen!
Many of the parks in the city are transformed into ice skating rinks in the winter. This is Kongen's Nytorv (King's Square). Rochelle and Ronnie... guess what we are doing when you visit!
The Christmas Market at Nyhavn.
Joel on the bridge behind the Nyhavn Christmas Market. Notice the lights on the back of the stalls!
I arrived at my campus canteen at 2 and was handed a glass of champagne. The hall was BEAUTIFULLY decorated with lots of Christmas candles and decorations. The Danes do love their candles! After welcoming speeches, a choir performance (don't know where they are from... everything was in Danish), and a"comedy routine" (don't know if it was funny... everything was in Danish!) we finally sat down and had our lunch. Lunch began with several types of herring and rye bread (several of which were actually pretty good... and by this point I was very hungry!). Then we had a buffet of traditional Christmas Lunch foods including country style liver pate with crispy bacon, comfit of duck, roast pork, cabbage, selection of cheeses and a special Christmas rice pudding called ris à l’amande, all lubricated with Christmas beer and snaps. The meal lasted several hours and we were entertained with another comedy routine and a very good jazz band. Once everyone was full and drunk, the dancing began. Now, remember, these are only work colleagues. I figured I would avoid most of the dancing... just a bit too much for me. But, I was wrong. Everyone dances. And, I did. I danced for several hours until they brought out another live rock band and hot snacks for us to eat (which was good because I was hungry again!). I finally biked home around midnight (I left a bit early).
It was a nice time... and a great cultural experience. I have really friendly colleagues and most workers in Denmark make collegiality a priority (lunches together etc.). I wish I had pictures to share with you, but there was a clearly understood but unspoken rule at the Christmas Lunch... what happens at the lunch stays at the lunch!
Friday, December 14, 2007
These are a few pictures of us preparing for our first dinner party. We had two couples from church over for dinner. Nothing fancy, but it was very nice to just relax and chat. And, I was pleased that we all fit in our flat -- and quite comfortably!
Here are a few pictures of our friend Rebekah and her son John. They came to our house to make Christmas cookies. John really liked our computer and decided to help Joel with a his work!
Monday, December 10, 2007
It’s been a while since I last blogged. It’s not that we’ve been bored… we’ve been very busy with work and social events. But, I do feel a winter melancholy settling in. I am normally very chipper around the end of the semester and Christmas, but I just can’t shake the feeling of melancholy. I have to attribute this feeling to the darkness. I can’t explain how dark it is here. The sun rises in the morning around 8:30-9 and then starts to set around 2:30-3. The worst part is that it is cloudy/rainy most days, which means it feels like the sun never really rises. My Danish colleagues tell me I should just like candles in my flat. I am all for candles, but seriously… how many candles can a girl light before her whole flat catches fire! And, candles are pretty, but they don’t replace the sun!
I remember when Joel and I first arrived in Copenhagen and we would walk at 10:00 at night. The street lights would just start to flicker on. We wondered what it would be like in December. Now we know… it is darn dark!
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