Lili – December 27, 2017
Although Christmas is always a busy time in our household, I made sure this year to take time to visit my friend Britta, who lives at The Danish Home. Britta was especially excited for me to stop by when she and her friends were making Kleiner cookies. Although they were really for her family, she insisted I taste one straight out of the pan. It was delicious!
Kleiner cookies are a staple of the Danish holidays. They are pastry twists that are fried, not baked, and all the tastier for it. I’m definitely including them in my cookie exchange next year.
As the two-times great-granddaughter of one of The Danish Home founders, Margrethe Olsen, I have come to embrace many traditions of the homeland. Every year, as a countdown to Christmas, our family lights an Advent wreath. We begin four Sundays before the holiday, and each week we take turns lighting one of its candles. This is a custom many Danes still keep, along with the better-known Advent calendars. We used to have those as well, until the year our dog, Finn, ate all the chocolates inside and we had to rush him to the vet.
Another tradition we enjoy is having friends over a few days before Christmas for mulled wine, called “glogg,” with apple dumplings. Mulled wine originally comes from Sweden, but apple dumplings have been enjoyed in Denmark since the 17th century. In many families, people get together for wine and dumplings after they have cut down their Christmas tree, but since we only have to take our artificial one out of the basement, there’s more time to enjoy ourselves.
Once we’ve had enough glogg to warm our throats, we sing songs. I know it’s corny, but it’s something we love to do, and Mor loves any opportunity to play our piano. Among the traditional carols and old standards, we’ll throw in a few Danish songs to impress our friends. There’s nothing to get you in the Christmas spirit quicker than a room full of people singing “Nu Det Jul Igen” in Chicago accents!
I’m glad to know that Britta and her friends were able to enjoy the sounds of a traditional Danish Christmas, too, as the Bjornson Chorus came to The Danish Home to gave them a splendid a capella concert.
On December 21, I joined The Danish Home in celebrating its Family Night White Christmas with a smaller version of the Lillejuleaften buffet dinner they enjoyed on December 9 as part of The Danish Home’s 125th anniversary celebration. Just like my family, residents also enjoyed the warmth and spice of some Danish glogg, but instead of a piano, they were treated to music from a harpist. I couldn’t help but feel Margrethe’s presence as I listened to the magical sounds coming from that beautiful instrument. She would have loved this entire celebratory year!
My family’s Christmas dinner is also traditionally Danish. To be honest, I’m not much of a cook, but Mor loves to show Anna and Olivia how it should be done. Like the Danes, we enjoy our special dinner on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day. We usually have pork with sour-sweet red cabbage and caramelized potatoes. Dessert is always rice pudding, which we make in the traditional style with cream and almonds. The Danes call it risalamande, which was also served at the Lillejuleaften event. One almond is always left whole and the person who gets it must hold it in their mouth until, upon revealing the “evidence,” they are presented with a marzipan pig.
Happy holidays to our dear Hope Chest readers, or as they say in Denmark, “god jul!” See you next year!