December 10, 2013

Danish Christmas TreeDecember is a month filled with holiday celebrations and traditions. No sooner are the turkey leftovers finished and the last of the pumpkin pie scraped clean from the plate than it seems the boxes of holiday decorations and lights make their way out of their doldrums for their annual debut. Ornaments, baubles and trinkets from yesteryear are marveled and admired as they are given their special place to adorn the tree or home. Garland and fairy lights in greens, reds, whites and blues twinkle in the chilly night air as we drive a little slower than usual to admire neighbors’ handy work (and our own!).

Our first December snow has fallen. Advent wreaths have been lit twice (on each Sunday so far this month) and excited children open their Advent calendars (or Christmas calendars as they are known in Denmark) each day of the month. Paper hearts, lights and decorations have been hung with care, with hopes that Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Santa (or whichever moniker you may adoringly call him) will soon be here.

‘Tis the season for spending precious quality time together, sharing wonderful holiday memories – old and new – singing songs and reveling in each other’s company, and this is just what Mormor has been doing at The Danish Home with her friends and neighbors!

decorating tree1There is a beautiful Danish Christmas tree at Navy Pier (part of their Winter Wonderfest) adorned with beautiful white baskets and lovely white stars created as a joint community project of the Danish Sisterhood and the residents of The Danish Home. Also, this past Sunday The Danish Sisterhood visited for a sing-a-long with the residents. Singing hymns and carols is such a timeless and universal tradition, and Mormor said that it was such a delightful afternoon!

The Santa Lucia custom was first celebrated in Denmark in 1944 (originating in Sweden) and is a fusion of several different traditions. Legend has it that Lucia, in order to keep her hands free, wore a wreath with candles on her head so that she could feed the poor. The symbolism of this tradition is “to bring light in a time of darkness.” It is a celebration of the utmost spirit of the holidays: giving to others, sharing with one another and celebrating this wonderful time of year.
To read more about St. Lucia and how Luciadag is celebrated in Denmark visit here, and to hear a beautiful rendition of her song and the customary precession visit here.

Old-time christmasRecently, I was sifting through the chest for a glimpse into the holiday customs and traditions from the days of yore. I found an undated posting, which read:
“At the Christmas celebration this year at the Home an Old Danish hymn was sung in which these words just suited that little circle of courageous women who started the movement for a Danish Old People’s Home in Chicago, and it also fits the small group of Danish people in this city who can always be depended upon to help their aged countrymen and women.”

I found these words to still ring true today. I don’t know for sure how Christmas was celebrated by the 12 Founding Women over 120 years ago, but I do believe it was very similar in song and in spirit. It is the most wonderful time of the year!

Did St. Nicholas (or Sinterklaas) visit you on December 6th? Do you have a fond holiday memory or family tradition you would love to share? Leave a comment – I’d love to hear it!