It’s the most…wonderful..time…of the year! Yes, yes it is! Hurrah! December 1st always comes upon me much quicker than I thought it would and it usually means the year goes into overdrive until it ends in a cloud of fireworks on the 31st. There are the holidays of course, but nearly everyone in my family has a birthday this month, and typically, because of my day job, it’s nuts at work as it’s our busiest time of the year there as well. This year, that I don’t have that last component to tend with as my maternity leave comes to a close, and since we’re at home with a full house of rotating visitors, there’s just as much commotion (in a good way!) to be had.
I’m not going to lie, I wanted to go to Vienna for Christmas. I mean, in my heart, Vienna is just about as Christmas as it gets and I was thrilled to have it there last year. But when I floated the idea to the diplo-tot, she broke down in tears and “wanted to stay home”. So home it is – as far as the run up to Christmas goes, Copenhagen comes an extremely close second to Vienna, especially now that we’ve been here awhile and know our own way around more. There’s a beautiful sentiment about advent here and truly “waiting” for Christmas to arrive.
In order to help instill that feeling of waiting and preparation, the diplo-tot and I have drawn up our own 12 Dates of Christmas list. I haven’t done one of these in a couple of years (but see here and here for past ones) but thought it would be a good way to make sure we don’t forget to incorporate the spirit of the holidays in all our preparations. Some “dates” are calmer, some more festive, some are traditions that we seem to do every year, and some things that are local to here, especially as it’s our last Copenhagen Christmas.
Here is to our best Christmas in Copenhagen yet! What’s on your list of preparations ?
Pick out an Advent Wreath
And and a December candle…and advent greenery…People get very serious here about creating displays for the season. The lighting of candles is a big thing and if you take a walk in the early morning or evening around this time, I dare say you’ll see one in every window in Denmark. Plus, windows and mantles are full of greenery and nature items. Diplo-tot has been collecting them in school for a week or so now, bringing back her forest school backpack full of pine cones and tree branches.
Image via I Rosens Navn, the most gorgeous florist in Copenhagen and they are right here in our neighborhood – I have been saving up for one of these ever since I missed buying them the first year!
Make a Gingerbread House
I’m not that great of a baker – I could probably wrangle a B+ for effort, but if a recipe is not that forgiving, I probably won’t be forgiven. But I love the notion of gingerbread houses so when I saw these kits at Emmery’s, I figured we could give this a go. Plus, seems like something that could take up any one of these infernally dark, rainy afternoons.
Take Holiday Family Photos at Kastellet
I realized last year that there were maybe all of two photos of us all together with me in the frame, and that’s because I’m usually the one behind the camera when it comes to documenting the family. Fast forward to this fall, and I realized I should make more effort. We had some great family photos taken this summer with ValentinaandJack, and I just signed us up for a mini-session with Twig & Turtle. For all you holiday photo procrastinators, she’s offering 30 minute sessions at the Kastellet park, which is pretty iconic as far as Copenhagen locations go. As a bonus, my in-laws are visiting the same weekend so this session is actually less about me, but more about making sure that there are a few really great shots of my children with their grandparents. Time with grandparents is something we so often take for granted, and I want my children to remember their time together with their grandparents in those magical split seconds of photo frames. Twig & Turtle still has a couple of slots left, so if you need a holiday photo, a Copenhagen photo, or just want to remember our hazy shade of CPH winter here, call her up!
Buy (or chop!) a Christmas Tree
Last year, because of the Vienna trip for the baby, we only had a small, faux tree – it was completely lovely with gingerbread ornaments and tinsel and actually has been one of my favorite trees because it was such a special time for our family. But this year we want it BIG and we want it real, complete with the smell of pine (and probably all the clean up that goes with it). Shopping for trees in Denmark starts now with the bulb-lit lots, often times with open flame lanterns burning out front (you have to love that, kerosene lanterns and a lot of chopped trees…he he he…only in Denmark). You can also chop your own tree and I just heard of this place – I foresee a field trip! But trees (like most things) are an expensive business here in Copenhagen, so the earlier you get it, the more the softens the pricing blow. Note, most people don’t decorate the actual tree until Christmas Eve so maybe we’ll try that as a new tradition this year.
Pick a Christmas market, any Christmas market
Christmas markets are really picking up here in Copenhagen and there’s more and more variety in them. While they’re much calmer than those in Austria, I’ve noticed the products getting better, and the glogg becoming easier to find over these past couple of years. Many of the structures are imported kit and caboodle from Austria of Germany so no wonder they look familiar (in a good way!). We’ve already knocked a couple and planning on doing many more! And we might even steal away on an overnight to Hamburg to get a little gluwein in too! (Image via Kongens Nytorv JulMarked)
A Bowl of Peber Nodders…
Or maybe a bucket…both the diplo-tot and I can eat these things with an industrial shovel. And while we try them at all sorts of bakeries, inevitably our favorites are always the ones from the grocery store. Small, mildly spicy and best eaten in large quantities with a mug of something warm…And if you don’t have them around your neck of the woods, this recipe (and image) from Traveling Mama will set you up for some lovely holiday success.
This has to be one of my favorite Danish Christmas traditions. I’m lukewarm on some of the foods, but high on love for the spectacle. Julfrokost is the tradition of “Christmas lunches”, but really they take place any time of day. The evening ones are definitely the most entertaining. First of all, if you’re invited to one you absolutely have to go, since invitations to outsiders aren’t that plentiful. And second of all, if you’re not invited, don’t worry. Cobble together a group on your own, or you can do like us and find a good buddy and book a table for two and just watch the evening unfold for others. You’ll get the experience of the food (a parade of smoked and cured fishes, meat products, topped off with the classic “ris a la mande” – yum on the last one for sure ) but moreso, you’ll get to watch genuinely festive Danes. As the evening progresses, the snaps (the hard stuff) rolls out harder and faster with each dish, and the evening ventures deep into “let me tell you what I really think” territory and all sorts of pairings at the table. It’s good stuff, and a big part of the holiday tradition here – don’t miss this one. (Image via Meyers – they’ll cater yours if you can’t be bothered to do all this people watching.)
Pick out Christmas Pajamas
This year for Christmas we have my brother, his wife, and their two girls coming who are right at diplo-tots age. It’s been a few years since we did Christmas together so the cousins will be reunited! Last time, we had matching pajamas for them and so how could we not for this year, especially since now there is also diplo-baby in the mix. Plus, waiting to wear the pajamas helps to build some of that anticipation for Christmas in a way that’s more tangible for this younger set.
Take a boat tour of Nyhavn
We’re not strangers to the boat tours here – love them. We have been on time probably two dozen times – nothing special, just the ones on the harbor that all the tourists take, maybe the occasional go boat there and there. But for all our outings, we’ve been only once in the winter on a very dreary day in January. It’s cold, that’s for sure, but everyone keeps talking about seeing “the holiday lights” from the boat. We’re always down for holiday lights here at our house, so holiday lights by boat it will be! We’ll probably just take the tourist boat again, but I have to say that the SALT private boat tour after dinner is looking rather enticing as well.
Make a Christmas Room
We have House of Valentina to thank for this one… Apparently she moonlights as super-mom in her spare time, since she’s already knocked out not one but two “Christmas rooms” for her extremely lucky kids. We were over there this weekend, and of course it took my daughter all of five minutes to march right back down and ask when her Christmas room is coming. Um…coming right up? She even helpfully informed me, “And mommy, you can even paint your own wallpaper!”. Ahem. I don’t know if I have the skills to paint my own wall paper, but in thinking about it, why not make her room a little more festive too this year? I’m no super-mom but I can do this. I think? Right? Check out House of Valentina’s tips for making your own Christmas Room here (and her living room is looking pretty awesome too).
See the Nutcracker
The classic. If they have it, I need to see it. Diplo-tot has always been a good companion for the theater but since she’s started to take ballet, she’s been asking to see more of it. I managed to get tickets for the night of my birthday, and that’s exactly how we spent my birthday in Vienna a few times before, so I’m feeling rather sentimental about it. And if we can get out the door in time, we’ll stop for a little pre-theater hot chocolate (and glogg) at the Hotel d’Angleterre, which is all decked out for the holidays and serving all sorts of Christmas treats for young and old alike in the bar. (Image via Det Konglige Teater)
Tivoli! Tivoli! And More Tivoli!
I mean, it’s the heart and soul of Christmas in Copenhagen. The lights, the trees, the decorations, the rides… of all the things that will make us sentimental for Copenhagen, this will be highest on the list. We’ll be putting that annual card to use and soaking up as much holiday as we can here. If you’ll be visiting for the holidays, don’t miss our Tips for Visiting Tivoli at Christmas! It’s everything magic about Christmas, and then some.
PPS – If you’re not around Copenhagen this year but want a bit of that scandi spirit under your tree, check out our Scandinavian Christmas Gift Guide for this year!