Article by: Cheresse Burke from
Photos by: Rikke Svendsen
Thinking of a cozy trip away for Christmas? Many people travel to Copenhagen to get that Winter Wonderland experience. The Danes have many Christmas traditions, so if you’re planning an interrailing trip or vacation over the winter holiday, read on to find out how the Danes celebrate this magical time of year.
It’s the Most Hyggelig Time of the Year
The Danish concept of hygge, or being hyggelig, is the concept of doing cozy things with people you like. Many things can be hyggelig, which is lucky because at Christmas time the Danes are all about the hygge. What do they do to be hyggelig together?
Celebrate with Candles
Danes love candles. We put them in the window, light them to remember the loved ones who won’t be joining us for Christmas, and we even put them on our Christmas trees. Yes, you read that right. Danes put lit candles on our very real Christmas trees. There are fewer disasters than you might expect - especially since we dance around the lit tree singing Christmas songs. Just make sure you hit the gløgg after your annual dance.
Snatch Extra Presents
Christmas presents are traditionally unwrapped on the 24th of December. At Christmas parties and family dinners, we also play the pakkeleg, or present game. Friends and family steal presents from each other at the roll of a die, so pick up a few small items for everyone to fight over. If you want to shop like the Danes, you can check out the quintessential Danish department store, Magasin du Nord. Founded in 1863, Magasin carries luxury and boutique brands. You can also check out a Christmas market, but focus on a market that makes homemade or local products, such as the Christiania Christmas market. Or, if you want to do some sightseeing and shopping simultaneously, you can even take the train up to Helsingør, to visit the famous castle of Elsinore and check out their Christmas market.
Eat Good Food
Christmas time is all about good Danish food. Danes enjoy a Christmas Eve feast of duck or roast pork, with apple and prune stuffing, three kinds of potatoes, and braised red cabbage. The next day, Christmas lunch can include pickled herring, salmon, aspic, and leftovers from the night before. Those who still have room enjoy a dessert of risalamande, or rice pudding made with plenty of cream and slivered almonds, with a dollop of sour cherry sauce on top. All that food needs some good drink to go with it, and Danes enjoy a cup of gløgg - mulled wine with almonds and raisins - or Christmas beer, brewed specially for this season. Plenty of Christmas markets offer gløgg and æbleskiver, small spherical pancakes served with jam and powdered sugar. If you’re looking for beer as you wander through town, Copenhagen’s flourishing microbrewery scene provides unique flavors for the season.
Speaking of good food…Copenhagen Free Walking tours has a little present for you: a recipe for æbleskiver. These spherical pancake-style sweets are dipped in jam and powdered sugar, and best accompanied by gløgg, or mulled wine. While we usually make them in a special pan, you can make them in the style of regular pancakes, and they’ll be just as delicious.
240g plain flour (about 2 cups)
½ t salt
½ t cardamom (optional)
1 t baking soda
3 eggs, separated
400 ml whole milk (1 ⅔ cups)
1 t white vinegar
3 T unsalted butter, melted, plus more for frying
The juice of ½ an orange
Your favorite jam and powdered sugar, to serve.
Special equipment: an æbleskiver pan, if you have one, and chopsticks or wooden skewers to turn the æbleskiver over. The Danes even swear by knitting needles, but let’s stick to kitchen equipment.
Sift or mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the melted butter, egg yolks, milk, and vinegar, and stir until no lumps remain. Let the mixture rest for half an hour in the refrigerator.
Whip the egg whites into stiff peaks - the more you whip them, the fluffier your æbleskiver will be! When they’re nice and stiff, fold them carefully into the rested batter until no lumps of egg whites remain.
If you have an æbleskiver pan:
Heat the over medium-high heat and brush it carefully with melted butter. Add the batter about a tablespoon at a time to each divot. Don’t fill them too full, as they will puff up while frying. Let them cook until the bottoms are browned, much like a pancake. When they’re cooked on the bottom, they won’t be in the middle. Use your chopstick, wooden skewer, or other helper to detach the æbleskive from the bottom of the pan and flip it halfway over. You can add more batter if you want your æbleskiver to be perfect spheres, but remember not to overfill your pan! Once you’ve refilled your batter, finish flipping the finished half æbleskive over so that it sits on top. Let the æbleskiver finish cooking on the bottom. Keep your finished æbleskiver warm in the oven or in a bread basket covered with a cloth while you make the rest.
If you do not have an æbleskiver pan
Heat a frying pan over medium high heat. Melt butter in the bottom, and spoon in about a tablespoon of batter for each pancake. Let them brown on the bottom before flipping them over and cooking them the rest of the way. Keep your finished pancakes warm in the oven or in a bread basket covered with a cloth while you make the rest.
Danes traditionally put three on a plate, with a spoonful of jam and powdered sugar. Dip the æbleskiver in jam, then powdered sugar. Enjoy!
Thank you for reading the article. For more travel tips from our local guides around the world, check the blog section of our website! Have you read our earlier articles about Danish Carnival Traditions and Why Danes are some of the Happiest in the World?