December starts this Saturday! And that means, Christmas music on the radio all day, holiday decorations are up, and festive food, drinks, and activities. This year, I’m looking forward to spending our holiday week with my family back up in Maryland. But until then, our Floridian home is in the spirit. Still feeling inspired from our trip to Denmark, I’m trying some hygge Christmas traditions.

Remind me, what is hygge?

“Hygge is… a Danish word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment.” according to Wikipedia. Ever since my family and I planned to visit our ancestor’s homeland in Denmark, I’ve been learning more about the happiest country in the world and my heritage. The trendy hygge can be found in Pinterest with decor sporting candles, comfy knit blankets, and soft lighting. But after reading more about it, I like to think of hygge as a mood that I try to incorporate into our everyday lives so we can live more simply and happily.

If you’re curious, I delve into defining hygge happiness to me specifically here.

Decorations

Kalenderlys

Gnome candle with numbers running from 1 to 25

I love when people get into the holiday spirit with lit trees, garland, and decorations. In our home this year, you’ll find our very first advent calendar candle called “Kalenderlys.” I bought ours from a shop within Tivoli in Copenhagen, but you can also buy these online (like this one). Candles are essential for getting hyggelige. And I’m so excited! You’re supposed to light these once a day starting December 1st surrounded by your family. Since our mornings can be busy, I’ve chosen to light ours at dinner time because we always sit down together to eat and wind down the day.

Woven Paper Hearts

Christmas woven paper heart in red and white

I learned about these from The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to be Happy Living by Meik Wiking. He says they’re rarely seen outside of Denmark and can be attributed to Hans Christian Andersen (*immediately hums “Hans Christian Andersen!”*). This was an affordable and totally doable decoration. In the hygge book, there are even DIY instructions! I bought basic 8 ½ x 11” cardstock thick paper in shades of red and white from Michael’s and made a few for our home and an extra heart ornament to send to my granddad (a Jacobsen!) back home.

Food

Homemade Risalamande

I have on my food wish list this holiday season to try Risalamande – a chilled, refreshing dessert made with rice, cream, and finely chopped almonds. There’s a single whole almond hidden in the dessert. So, when risalamande is served, it’s served to all participants at the same time. Whoever is served the whole almond is the winner! The trick is, however, to hide that you have the almond. It becomes like a game of chicken. The winner usually gets a prize, but since we’re a small family of two, the winner will probably just be dubbed lucky for the night.

Aebleskiver

Round pancakes in a Christmas bowl
Photo credit: Ate Kris

This is a traditional treat that’s sort of like round pancakes. It requires a special pan and my sister makes these often with her son (it’s such a cute tradition!). Since I don’t have the pan, I’ll have to wait to try these until we’re back in Maryland. If you’d like to give them a try, here’s a recipe from Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge:

Serves 4 – 6
Cooking time 45 minutes (including 30 minutes rest for the dough)

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • Scant 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • Confectioners sugar, to serve
  • Jam, to serve

Directions

  1. Mix egg yolks, buttermilk, flour, sugar salt, and baking soda together well. Cover the mixture and let it rest for thirty minutes.
  2. Once the mixture has risen, whip the egg whites until stiff and fold gently into the mixture.
  3. Heat the aebleskiver pan and put a littler butter in each hole. Pour some of the mixture into each hole, filling them three-quarters full and cook over a medium heat. Turn the aibleskiver frequently, so they are cooked evenly. This usually takes five to six minutes. Make the first turn when they have formed a brown crust at the bottom but the dough on top is still runny, using a knitting needle or skewer.
  4. Serve them hot with confectioners sugar and your favorite jam.

Eggnog (And other aperitifs)

A big part of a hyggelig Christmas is being with your loved ones. And this holiday season, my husband and I will spend a date night each week trying a new holiday drink while watching Christmas movies. We’ll soon be giving eggnog a try. I think cinnamon on top will be good, don’t you think? We’ll also be having throughout the season, warm, apple cider with brandy and a Danish favorite: mulled wine or “gløgg.” Yum!

Traditions

Little gnome doll sitting on a table

Nisse

Bought from the famous Christmas shop in Copenhagen, we brought home our very own “nisse” – a mischievous elf or gnome from Nordic folklore that’s associated with Christmas. A fun game is finding curious places for nisse around the apartment. No kids in our household, but I still get a giggle out of Jeremy when he spots this curious little guy in silly places. It reminds me of Elf on the Shelf, but I don’t think (and Danes can correct me if I’m wrong…) that Nisse is used to report back to Santa is kids have been good or not.

Celebrating “J-day”

J-Day or Drunk Day is the first Friday of November, where Danes get crazy drunk. HA! The “J” stands for “Juleøl” which is a seasonal beer from Carlsberg. The brewery drives around town and throws out free bottles of Juleøl (yeah, you read that correctly… free bottles of beer!). The event is meant to symbolize the kickoff to the holiday season. Since I haven’t been able to find this beer in St. Pete, Jeremy and I will enjoy the beginning of the holidays at Disney’s Christmas at Magic Kingdom and with a hearty day (of drinking) at Epcot while watching a celebrity (John Stamos!! Eee!) read during the Disney’s Candlelight Processional.

Happy hyggelig holiday season, everyone!

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