A mishmash of traditions

Christmas is a time for tradition. So what do you do if, as a couple, you come from two different countries, with two sets of traditions, as in our case, England and Denmark?

Luckily my husband and I have found a happy compromise – well, I’m happy, and he hasn’t complained – we do a bit of both. This year we celebrated Christmas in England, but with a strong Danish influence, and here is how it went.

Tellingly the kids had free range...

Tellingly the kids had free reign with the decorating…

22nd of December – Bought a tree and brought it indoors for the children to decorate. We never get our tree early in the month because the tradition in Denmark is to have live candles on it, in special holders, unless you have young children and/or pets, in which case it’s not advisable! My maternal grandfather used to say, “A Christmas tree never burns”, and this is certainly true if it’s fresh and full of sap. Nevertheless he always had a sneaky bucket of water hidden behind the sofa, “just in case”.

My advent wreath

My advent wreath

23rd of December – Traditionally Boxing Day is the day for the big Christmas lunch in our family, but we chose to have it on the 23rd instead, which was also the last Sunday in Advent, so I lit the last candle on my advent wreath and used it as a table decoration. In my home region of Northern Denmark lunch consists of pickled herring and other fish,

The salt 'n pepper guinea pigs are looking hopeful...

The salt ‘n pepper guinea pigs are looking hopeful…

followed by a warm main course of sugar roasted baby new potatoes, ham, herb sausage, and kale, locally known as “grønlangkål” (the green stuff on the plate), which is pan-fried in butter, sugar, and cream. All served with schnapps and beer. A bit of a blow-out, but, oh, so yummy!

Keeping it civilised

Keeping it civilised

Christmas Eve – This is the big day in Denmark and the time for Christmas dinner, but as a concession to living in England, instead of roast pork, we had turkey with all the trimmings (and I mean ALL the trimmings!), followed by traditional English Christmas pudding and port. Then we let the kids loose at what’s under the tree… But first a glass of champagne before the starter – my favourite part 🙂



Christmas Day – On Christmas morning this little fella crawled out of by stocking! Then we went for brunch at a friend’s house, where we were treated to croissants, smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, and more champagne. Left just as they were wrestling their turkey into the oven, feeling smug that we’d had ours the

Traditional English Christmas cake from a family recipe

Traditional English Christmas cake from a family recipe

night before and could just put our feet up and watch a DVD! But not without a slice of the Christmas cake my husband made in October. Marzipan decorations by daughter.

St. Martin in the Fields at night

St. Martin in the Fields at night

Boxing Day – Rounded off a relaxing day with a candle-lit Christmas concert in the beautiful church of St. Martin in the Fields on Trafalgar Square. Sadly, due to the train strike a journey of normally 1 hour took 2½ hours, but it was worth it. The Belmont Ensemble of London played Handel, Mozart, and other baroque composers to perfection, including Pachelbel’s Canon in D, which always sends shivers down my spine. Then home again to warm up over a bottle of red wine and a big vat of spaghetti.

27th December – Invited friends over for another traditional Danish lunch, this time a cold

Danish schnapps has to be drunk from a Danish glass

Danish schnapps has to be drunk from a Danish glass!

buffet consisting of “smørrebrød” (or “smörgasbord” in Swedish), again with the prerequisite beer and schnapps. This was followed by a dessert of cold rice pudding mixed with whipped cream and vanilla, served with hot cherry sauce. Dare I say it…? Yep, another blow-out.

28th December – Time to tidy up and take out the recycling. Oh, and ponder the mystery of how quickly a bottle of something turns into… well, just a bottle.

I wish you all a Happy New Year, and hope to catch you again in 2013!

About henriettegyland

USA Today bestselling author, published by One More Chapter Also, a translator, cat slave, guinea pig whisperer, knitter & upcycler, and hygge lover.
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9 Responses to A mishmash of traditions

  1. lizharriswriter says:

    Having tasted your husband’s mince pies, I envy you your cake.

    Have a brilliant New Year.

    Liz X

  2. Wow, so much food! It all sounds fantastic, congratulations on managing to merge two countries’ traditions so successfully – I’ve found it hard enough to merge two families’ expectations of the day! It’s always nice to hear how things are done in other places, and the different foods eaten at different times, I’d need a wall chart to keep up…

    Wishing a very happy, and successful New Year to you and yours.

  3. Liz – There’s still plenty of cake left….

    Jane – I agree, it’s difficult to merge the expectations of two families. Quite like the idea of your wall chart, a good way to keep things “fresh”. Mind you, the kids prefer the same procedure as always.

    Happy New Year to you both.

  4. I enjoyed learning about the meshing of your traditions. They are both foreign to me, so I got a double shot. Speaking of shots, must get some schnapps now. I’ve been on a tear lately drinking Italian digestifs. Need to try something new. Very glad to have found you on Twitter! Happy New Year.

    • And a Happy New Year to you! So glad to connect with you. I’ve only ever tried grappa once, and it was good stuff, but schnapps tends to be drunk with food, not before. It’s a very strong, pure alcohol and good at cleansing the palate between the various flavours.

  5. Love the sound of all that food and although slightly different, we have the same sort of mish-mash in our household (Swedish/English combined). It’s great having the best of both!

  6. I’m pleased to see you didn’t skimp on yummy food when you made your compromises! Happy New Year to you Henri!

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