Denmark: My Boyfriend’s Family’s Four Christmases

By Farah Bassyouni Jan 22, 2024

As an avid traveler with a boyfriend who is 4,349 miles away, I take every opportunity I can to get my tush on a plane and fly the eight or nine hours to go see him. So, when he and I discussed me coming to Denmark for Christmas in 2023, I took all of a minute to say yes.

The first week consisted of me adjusting to the time and playing games with my boyfriend. Then the holiday really started. I am a very antisocial person who cannot speak Danish, and while most of his family can speak English, they feel very awkward doing so. His family is so large that they have four Christmases, spread out so everyone can see each other, the first being less like Christmas and more like a get-together.

It was a light lunch where there was a lot of talking and a lot of questions about America and trying to convince me to continue my studies in Denmark rather than America so my boyfriend  and I didn’t have to keep traveling. 

The lunch was filled with Danish delicacies such as their pancakes, which are not like American pancakes, but closer to closer to crepes. Thin, filled with jam, but nothing else put on top such as whipped cream or powdered sugar, and if you did, you were called a sweet tooth. They were also little, sugary, cooked biscuits that you tore apart and dipped in jam and then pushed into powdered sugar. 

The next Christmas event was a little more traditional to Danish culture. My boyfriend’s family has a tradition of going to the attic to take photos and then leaving some alcoholic beverages and cookies  for the “nisse,” little gnome-like Santas that have magical powers. Just like in America, the children enjoy seeing how the “nisse” ate and drank the treats the next morning.

There was liver, which I tried; it tastes pretty much like chicken, but saltier and with a smoky flavor. If I could cook then I would attempt to make it myself. There was also a pudding that you put butter and sugar-cinnamon mix in, which had to be the best dish there. .

The singing of carols was unique, not because it was in Danish, but because they danced around the tree and then around the house in a line. I had never had that, and it was an annual tradition that my boyfriend was very excited for.

The third gathering showcased even more gift-giving, with a Harry Potter fireplace showing in the background. I received a Danish cookbook—someone forgot to tell the rest of his family that I don’t cook things, I burn them, but I will still try—a couples mug set that was absolutely adorable, a big Dobby Harry Potter Lego set, a cute octopus that be angry or happy, and a certificate to a pottery shop to make whatever I wanted. These people hardly knew me, and I woke up that day thinking that I would get one, maybe  two presents from his mother, father, and sister (joint efforts and all that). But, their sheer niceness stunned me. No one went without a present here.

The dinner was absolutely delicious, consisting of  pig that was cooked for several hours, duck, and chicken. There were two different kinds of potatoes, glazed and baked,but the gravy was my favorite part of the whole meal. I poured it on everything.

They sang some songs in Danish, and I could catch some melodies of Christmas songs I knew in English. The music was live, though, with a guitar, not something played on a screen or through a speaker. I liked the atmosphere most because it was small and intimate.

Our last Christmas was by far the biggest celebration. More than twenty people showed up. Everyone pitched in and the main dishes were fish or meat. The game at the end was unique: There was a dice that you rolled in the first round to see if you got a six, and if you did, then you got a present on the table. In round two, if you rolled for a six and then got to steal a present from anyone else. I managed to steal a few, ending up with chocolate when the night was over.

I think the greatest thing I saw when I was there was my boyfriend utterly surrounded by love and as jolly red in the cheeks as anyone could get, and how I received the same, even though no one knew me, besides me being his American girlfriend.

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