Danish Christmas Traditions

A Danish Christmas tree illuminated with burni...

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The Danes observe Christmas Eve. It’s the big event of the year. Work ceases in the afternoon. At five o’clock church bells in town and country begin to “chime,” ringing out by beats of the hammer against the bell, to summon peo­ple to worship in candlelit churches decorated with green. Home again, families sit down to Christmas dinner. After din­ner, the Christmas tree is lighted and gifts are distributed.

On Christmas Eve the children are allowed to “stay up late.” Then, their Christmas gifts stacked at the foot end, they are put to bed, a young world transported into pleasant dreams. Where Santa Claus appears in Denmark he is called the “Yule Man,” but the Danes have their own gnomelike “nisse.” They have two Christmas holidays and usually enjoy a “white Christmas.”

Snow-white Christmas

Yes, the Danes hope for a white Christmas and often have it. Time and again you may see snow beginning to fall as soon as church bells begin to kime (chime), calling to each other from parish to parish, summoning people to worship. Snow falls in large flakes white and soft as swan’s down. When the sky clears, snow casts blue shadows. On clear, frosty nights its crystals reflect the light of stars. Now the snow covers the countryside and droops over the eaves of houses like white frosting overflowing on cake. Birds

would go hungry were it not for the thoughts which rise spon­taneously in the hearts of good people, who then cut slices of bread into small cubes and crumbs and drop them out ofwin­dows. No, better clear the snow off the window ledge and leave the bread there lest the crumbs disappear into the soft snow out of the reach of small birds. In Denmark, farmers put out a sheaf of grain stuck on a pole. They have saved it from the harvest to feed the birds at Christmas.

Danish Christmas is steeped in old tradition. Christmas is the oldest of Nordic festivals. Even in heathen times, mid­winter festivals were held around the shortest day of the year. Bonfires were made, and offerings, to appease evil powers. But gentleness and gifts and peace belonged to yule even in heathen times. And, to this day, some Christmas customs are not altogether free from the influence of both old heathen and early Christian tradition. Some old folks still remember the times when people made the sign of the cross before the bake oven and the yule dough and cast omens for the coming year.

“Peter’s Yule”

A favorite in Danish homes is a book of verse in stiff cover called Peter’s Jul. J. Krohn wrote it in the days of our grand­parents. The drawings are simple and charming and resemble those made by Vilhelm Pedersen for the first illustrated Danish edition of Hans Christian Andersen. Danish mothers still show Peter’s Jul to their young children and read to them the simple verses, for-as the first verse says–if mother now will read aloud the very simple song, the little verses will take wings upon her Danish tongue- For they are true for now and aye The old and golden words that say, In following one another: Like Father only few are found But never one like Mother. And the verses go on to tell of all the great expectations of children and the final revelation of their Christmas in faith and joy and glory.

Was I Born to Such Glorious Destiny?”

Traditional Danish Christmas dinner.

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To Christmas in Denmark in our days belongs first of all the Christmas tree. Hans Christian Andersen in his tale “The Fir Tree” tells how the tree is picked in the woods and brought into the home, where it is decorated with little nets and cones and hearts cut out of colored papers and filled with sweets. And with gilded apples and walnuts hanging from its branches! And with garlands of tinsel, flags, and lights and everything! “Was I really born to such glorious destiny?” the fir tree wondered. The Christmas tree is a guest in every Danish home, in hos­pitals, hotels or restaurants, and stores, and is raised in the public squares and tied atop the mast of Danish ships at sea. But the Christmas tree as a symbol of Christmas is relatively recent in Denmark. It was known in Alsace as early as the six­teenth century. And Goethe in I774 let his young Werther tell of the Christmas tree he had known in the home of his child­hood. He thus established this Christmas custom in Western Europe. In Denmark and in Sweden, the Christmas tree was introduced in the early nineteenth century. So this symbol of Christmas is some one hundred and fifty years old in the north. In Denmark, the tree is decorated the day before Christ­mas, but in homes with children colorful paper decorations have already been cut and pasted or woven together during cozy December evenings. Then, when the tree stands dressed in all its glory, the little paper cones and baskets filled with sweets and the lights fastened, the door to the living room is closed and locked. But the children are not allowed to see the tree before Christmas Eve when all are gathered together, the lights lighted, and the doors opened into the radiant tree. Christmas baking is traditional in Denmark. Cookies of many sorts and shapes belong to a Danish Christmas, and among them are “pepper nuts.” The Christmas Eve church service is of the Danish Christ­mas observance. The service is in the late afternoon, before dinner. All work ceases, church bells peal, and people flock to churches festively lighted and decorated with fragrant greens.

The traditional Christmas Eve dinner is rice porridge sprin­kled with cinnamon, and with a piece of butter in the center, and then comes roast goose stuffed with apples and prunes and served with red cabbage and small caramel-browned po­tatoes. The dessert is often apple cake-layers of bread crumbs, apple sauce, and jam and topped with whipped cream. Hidden in the rice porridge is an almond, and who­ever gets the almond receives a prize.

Now dinner is over and the dishes washed up. Expectations are high. Father and Mother disappear into the locked room, light the tree, and open the door with a key and a smile. Be­hold the tree in all its glory! A silver star at the top, radiant with lights and tinsel and everything, and around the foot of the tree gifts wrapped in gay papers-But wait! It’s a Danish custom that all take one another by the hand and go around the tree singing some of the old Dan­ish Christmas hymns, and among them is “Merry Christmas, Lovely Christmas,” to the tune of “Holy Night.”

The gaily wrapped gifts stacked on tables and floor are ex­changed about the tree. Sometimes the “Yule Man” enters with gifts in his bag, a member of the family having dressed up as a Santa with long white beard and red cap.

The “Nisse”


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But even though the Danish “Yule Man” in the likeness of our American Santa is not so common in Danish homes, Den­mark has a similar spirit. He is a sprite and is called “Nissen.” The “Nisse” is much smaller than Santa Claus, which is per­haps not so strange considering that Denmark is so much smaller than America. For the last hundred years the Nisser (plural for Nisse) have attached to Danish homes. Today they are the lone representatives of the many supernatural beings who in old days played a part in the Danish yuletide. They are all that’s left of them now. They are given to all sorts of mischief-even as children at Halloween-but are good little sprites. They keep a friendly eye on cows and horses in the barn and on other domestic animals and are seen most fre­quently on Danish Christmas cards, often in the company of the house cat. They marry and have children. The old Nisse affects a long white beard in the manner of Santa, and all, old or young, wear red caps. They remind folks to pour milk in a saucer for the cat. But people are wont also to put a platter with the rice porridge outside the kitchen door on Christmas Eve for the Nisse, and the platter is always licked clean by morning. Only unimaginative people have been known to sug­gest that the cat must have eaten the porridge.

Is the Danish Christmas Nisse real? Certainly, he is just as real as Santa Claus, and everybody knows that there is a Santa Claus.

Denmark is the home of the original Christmas seal. Some fifty years ago Einar Holboll, then a post office clerk, got the idea. Jacob A. Riis brought the idea to America through an article in the magazine called The Outlook.

Glaedelig Jul is the Danish way of saying Merry Christmas.

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Pulling Down the Shades Halloween Party (1920's)

This party has nothing whatever to do with the adjustment ofyour window shades. What takes place is the pulling down from the centuries of “shades” of famous people of history and fiction.

Here is an invitation verse which will request the prospective guest to be in attendance attired as someone of note in days gone by- either in truth or in story­ whom everyone should know about. Be sure to designate on the invitation just which character the guest is to impersonate:

“From somewhere back in history,
or maybe in a story,
Recall to mind a personage who
left a trail of glory.
Adorn yourself to represent this
great one’s shade, or ghost,
And join at my house spooks of
others you have heard of most.”

5056 Washington Boulevard
Come as—–

Hallowe’en at 8.00 P. M.


Appropriately, we will first consider the shades-this time the window shades. Of course, the more shades in the room the better. At any rate, one is reserved for the “Honor Roll,” which will be described a little later on. The others are pulled all the way down, and on the lower half is attached a large skull cut from a full sheet of white mat stock. The edges are outlined by a strip of black crepe paper all the way round, and the eye, mouth and nose openings are also backed by black crepe paper. All except the Honor Roll Shade are so prepared, and then the shade is allowed to go back above the half-way line of the window. There the skull is concealed by means of twisted strips of crepe paper, alternately black and orange, draped across the curtains in front of the skull, one strip below the other in a graceful curve, extending far enough down fo hide the skull in normal position.

Should there be a chandelier or ceiling light in the room, hide it by hanging horizon­tally under it a sheet of black mat stock, on
which has been outlined in white crepe paper either a skull or Jack o’Lantern. At each corner of the black card, as well as half-way between -at the outside edge, approximately an inch in-cut or punch holes large enough to accommodate the sockets of your elec­tric tree (Chrismas) lighting outfit. Procure eight orange lamps for these. The wiring is all lying on top of the cardboard, hidden by a mass of decorative streamers. This will give all the light necessary, but be sure to have a few extra bulbs for the emergency of one burning out. Running entirely around the room is a single strip of cut-out pumpkin silhouette streamers, H 13, and eighteen inches below this is a similar strip of cut­ out cat streamers, H 12.

In this space, and in keeping with the general idea, are pictures of the various notables of the past, who have passed on, but whose shades are returning for this occasion. These pictures, however, are not works of art. They are spaced some distance apart around the room, and each consists of a sheet of paper on which is very crudely drawn one of the expected spooks in characteristic posture, and the picture is numbered. That number is the official number of the spook -himself. Immediately beside the picture is another sheet of paper so ruled as to show two columns of ten blank spaces each (or whatever number of couples expected). One column is headed “Male Spooks” and the other “Female Spooks.” There must be something about the crude picture to show two columns of ten blank spaces each (or whatever number of couples expected). One column is headed “Male Spooks” and the other “Female Spooks.” There must be something about the crude picture to show more or less plainly who it represents. Washington, were he one, would be a shade standing in the bow of a boat. Remember, so long as the idea is conveyed, the more poorly­ drawn the picture, the better and funnier it will be.


In the hall the guest is met by a shrouded figure wearing a headband marked “HIS­TORY.” The guest is led by History to a table, where a registrat-ion book is opened, a pen offered and ink set before him. The ink is really clear water, the inside of the ink­ well having been painted black. Of course,the guest fails to make a mark, whereupon the pen is taken from him and History remarks, “Thou canst not longer write­ thou art not mortal. Enter.” And he raps thrice lightly on the door leading into the “Shade Room.”

These raps are the signal for turning out the lights, so that as the guest enters there is only the light of a flashlight, dimmed by a single thickness of tissue paper, playing on two figures which approach him from the far corner of the room. They prove to be Modernism welcoming the ancient guest, and are a sort of flapper spook, hooded and otherwise ordinary spooks, except that their shrouds reach only to three inches above the knees. They wear black, heavy cotton stock­ings on the front of which have been painted white leg bones, including the knee joint.

In the darkened room the pale flashlight beam produces the effect required. Con­fronting the guest, they recite in unison and
in as weird and woebegone monotone as possible:


Then suddenly, and in piercing tone-in quick contrast to the above-they shout:

“WHO ARE You!”

As soon as the guest gives his name (i.e., the name of the shade he represents) the lights are turned on, and it is noticed that the shades are being pulled down by an old bent spook. He pulls down last the Honor Roll Shade, which is seen to be a list of names, hundreds of them. The Supreme Shade (for that is the title of the bent spook) runs a long finger down the lists until he apparently has found the name sought, for he turns and nods, and the guest is given a seat. This, of course, continues until all have arrived.

The Supreme Shade now solemnly, and in a cracked wheezy voice, informs the assemblage that one of the company is an impostor. He sweeps an accusing finger across the entire group as he hisses: “If one of you is mortal, I’ll find you out-I have two questions to be answered. All who can answer them successfully are beyond sus­ picion and shall assist me in the acid test.”
The questions are read, two minutes are allowed to elapse and they file past him, whispering the answers if they know them­ if not they must say they do not know. The fortunate ones pass at once into the “Torture room” to prepare the implements for the acid test. The others are returned to their seats to await trial singly in the Torture Room. The questions are:

What shade is like the announcement of an affirmative victory?
Answer: An eye shade, because the “ayes” have it.

Why is a piece of lace like a large black bird?
Answer: Because it is crocheted (crow shade).


The Torture Room is lighted by a single candle. Inthe center of the room, away from the light, are a bare table and anold chair. A small stand at the end of the table displays knives, guns, miscellaneous medicine bottles, a saw, hammer, pliers, etc.

The first victim is led in by the mournful voiced flapper spooks who keep shaking their heads and murmuring, “Poor thing, poor thing.” Once within the room, the victim is grabbed roughly and pushed into the chair. The Supreme Spook confronts the victim with the words:

“If you can take the acid we prepare
And do not call for water nor fresh air;

“If, with blood trickling from a gash,
You can keep cool and not get rash;

“If on the rack we pull your leg and crack it
And you withstand the rack without much racket;

“If, with a white-hot sword before your eyes,
You do not wince nor scream nor utter cries-

“If you can stand them-each and every test­
We know full well your spirit is at rest.”

Then, with the admonition:

“Remain quiet and keep your eyes ahead of you,” he calls to his aides: “Ready with the Acid Draught.” A small bottle is given him and he in turn passes it to the “victim” with instructions to drink it without fear as it is only sulphuric acid. After each test, the assistants all gather round him and they mumble “I don’t know, I don’t know.” The sulphuric acid is made from vinegar with a few drops of Worcestershire Sauce and a sprinkling of sulphur, well mixed.

The Supreme Spook turns, walks slowly toward the victim and mournfully calls for “THE BLOOD FLOW.” With the victim’s head held so that it bends forward, the Supreme Spook selects a large knife from the implement stand and, standing in front of the victim, sharpens and whets it to a fine edge. As he steps behind the victim the knife is exchanged for a piece of ice, which is run across the back of the victim’s neck, leaving, of course, some few drops of water trickling down the back. One of the assistants utters a low hollow laugh and remarks, “the beautiful trickling blood.”

“And now,”next announces the S. S., “the stretching test and the snapping of bones and joints.” A heavy rope is placed about the neck of the victim and one around each ankle. But just as the signal ” ow all together, onto the rack” is given, one of the aides announces in a disappointed tone that the rack is out of commission, and the ropes are removed.

But the victim’s relief is short-lived, for the flame and the sword test is ordered. The sword or knife is heated over the candle flame and plunged into water one or two times to produce an impressive sizzling sound, then reheated. Just as the S. S. steps forward to perform the eye burning test, an aide steps up and says, “Supreme Spook, the victim has enough points to pass without this test.” Whereupon the vindicated shade is released upon a promise not to reveal the horrors of the Torture Room, and the next victim is similarly dealt with.

When all have received the acid test, the Supreme Spook informs the gathering that it is safe to play, and that the game will be called:


This game will bring out somewhat of the information the shades have about each other. At one end of the room is placed either a long table divided into three sections or three separate small tables. On one hangs a large cut-out owl, H 551, on another a cat, H 69 and onthethird a witch, H 538. Behind the table or tables is the Supreme Spook. By this time each shade should know his num­ ber, as shown by the pictures on the wall, and he must keep it in mind. The S. S. picks up a card from the Owl Table on which is a verse describing something pertaining to one of the shades; something that is wise and good to know; then he takes from the at Table a “catty” verse about the same shade, and calls the shade to his side. The shade reads the verses about himself, first the Owlish verse and then the Catty one. When he has finished, as fast as the other shades frame the answers in their minds they rush forward and tell them to the shade. Should more than one start forward at the same time, they must form in line according to their arrival there. If the answers are right in substance, the shade described in the verses calls the shade number of the others in the rotation of their reaching him, and the Supreme Spook marks the number on the paper side of that shade’s picture in the rotation called. For instance, if Shade N0.4, male, was first to solve the questions regarding Shade 10, then Shade 10 would _call out “Shade4, male,” and the S. S. would put a figure 4 in the first blank space under the heading “Male Spooks,” etc.

Following are ten male and ten female shade verses for each of the Owlish and Catty variety:

Owl – of all Egyptian queens I am most noted
For what one thing-onwhich, of course, I doted?

Cat – What great soldier did I vamp
When he visited my camp?
Mark Antony


Owl –  What war did I do service in,
My everlasting fame to win?
Crimean War

Cat – What Charity now holds World sway . As I did in my little way?
American Red Cross

ROSALIND (“As You Like It”):

Owl – You must tell, or know not pardon,
Why I sought the Woods of Arden.
Banished for loving Orlando

Cat –  Is there anyone who knows
What I wore by way of clothes?


Dressed as a boy
Owl –  My name’s pretty and I love it;
Do you know the meaning of it?
Laughing Water

Cat –  I thought that I had Hiawatha cinched,
but what a ninny!
And now you know exactly why the ha,
ha is on Minnie.
Hiawatha did not marry her

JULIET (Romeo and Juliet):

Owl –  In picking Romeo I thought I made a fine selection;
Now can you tell the reason for that
parental objection?
A feud between the families

Cat –  I should have let my lover know that I
would not succumb;
Today you’d say that I was very beauti­ ful,
but dumb.
Only took a sleeping potion

Owl –  I sang from three to sixty and am known
By some name that denotes my power of tone.
The Swedish Nightingale

Cat –  What was it that I did to get myself
included in it
When P. T. Barnum said that one is born almost every minute?
Broke singing contract with Barnum to
be married


Owl –  My acting so impressed folk that today
They speak of me by what fond sobri­quet?
The Divine Sarah

Cat –  Though Dad and Mother both were Jews
What place of learning did I choose?
A convent


Owl –  Sometimes good and sometimes bad,
name the Chief who was my Dad.

Cat –  Who was he I fell for when
I was not much more than ten?
Capt. John Smith


Owl –  What man of valor wanted me to wed,
But in proposing did not use his head?
Capt. Miles Standish

Cat –  Although demure and modest (you’ve
been told),
Do you know what I did that may seem bold?
Asked John Alden to propose


Owl –  I wished my trip to prove forsooth,
Whatgreatand, later,well-known truth?
The earth is round

Cat – ‘Twas said that someone felt for me
A little bit of jealousy.
King Ferdinand


Owl –  What is the nickname given me
Because folk liked my honesty?
Honest Abe

Cat –  Tell me why the story books
Say so little of my looks.
Not good-looking


Owl –  What relative of mine, please guess,
Was England’s famous “Good Queen Bess?”

Cat – Name some great crisis, ifyou can,
Brought on by my young girl friend, Anne.
The Reformation


Owl –  Of all my different works of note,
What type of play were most I wrote?

Cat –  Now, when it comes to breakfast meat,
What is the kind I cannot eat?


Owl –  The greatest part in life I played
Was fighting in the Third-?.

Cat –  You know that I was brave and hand­ some,
But was I ever held for ransom?
Yes, by Henry VI


Owl – I bustled, hustled, ripped and tore and whirled;
Yet what act made me known through­ out the world?
Russo-Japanese Peace Treaty

Cat –  I served almost two terms as President and then
What party was there formed that I might run again?
Bull Moose


Owl –  Who were my friends before the nap I had,
Which proved that I was not entirely bad?

Cat –  Perhaps you do not wholly blame my wife
Because you know I led what kind of life?
Lazy, drunken


Owl –  If history is known at all by you,
What is there about me admitted true?
One of greatest military geniuses

Cat – What wife divorced (though loved and married first)
To satisfy my power-craving thirst?


Owl –  The proudest moment that I knew
Was when I licked my rival-who?

Cat –  The fact that I adored a warring life Tells why, at age-?- I chose a wife.
Age 16

It is best each time, should there be some who do not know the answers, to give broader and broader hints until all have some place on each list.

At the end of the game you will have a complete dance list for the evening. The first dance is as per the list with the picture of Shade No. 1, and the partners will be found already arranged on the lists. This is revealed to each on a slip of paper received
at the Witch table on which is explained that the partners will be found by numbers appearing opposite each other on the various lists.

Refreshments should be light, consisting merely of:




Swedish Cakes and Cookies (Sju Sorters Kakor)

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Vintage Christmas Santas

Tiny Santas, bobble-head Santas, plastic Santas, blow-up Santas….etc.

The jolly old fella has been made of every conceivable substance over the years.

You’ll find an unbelievable selection of various Vintage Christmas Santas on eBay below:

[phpbay]vintage santa, 6,907, altered,””, “”[/phpbay]

Christmas Story from the Isle of Man

Castle Rushen, seen from across Castletown Har...

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It is a strange island and an enchanted one-our Isle of Man. It took many a thousand years and more before mankind discovered it, it being well known that the spirits of water, of earth, of air and fire did put on it an enchant­ment, hiding it with a blue flame of mist, so that it could not be seen by mortal eye. The mist was made out of the heat of a great fire and the salt vapor of the sea, and it covered the island like a bank of clouds. Then one day the fire went out, the sea grew quiet, and 10, the island stood out in all its height of mountains and ruggedness of coast, its green of fens and rushing of waterfalls. Sailors passing saw it. And from that day forth, men came to it and much of its enchantment was Read more

Black Cat Lifesaver Halloween Favor (1920's)

Packaged candies make delightful favors. A few seals, cardboard cut-outs, a bit of crepe paper and Cellophane will work wonders. Instructions for making the Cat Bouquet Favor:

To make the flowers, cover a Life Saver with a 3-inch circle of crepe paper. Stretch the paper thoroughly and pinch it together underneath the mint. Tie it with a 6-inch length of spool wire and bend the ends down to form a stem. Wrap with a narrow strip of crepe paper.

Make one flower each red, orange, light amber and dark amber. Make a rosette of Read more

Deer & Moon Christmas Decoration

Could there be a nicer tree for your friends and family than this one of pure legendary whimsey? Here a new moon and deer cavort in joyous exaltation to awaken the spirit of the child within each man.

Place a dowel stick 1″ thick x 50″ long in a container of sand. Paint con­ tainer and stick silver.

Cut a paper pattern of a highly stylized or fanciful reindeer, 18″ long from head to rump. Do not include antlers and tail as they will be made of another material. Place the pattern on In chicken wire. Cut two pieces. Place a 2″ to 3″layer of dampened sphagnum moss between the pieces. Wire the two pieces together.

Cut a crescent moon pattern. Place moon pattern on 1″ chicken wire, cut two pieces, and proceed as above.

Wire deer to the lower section of the dowel stick on a diagonal line, head up. Place the moon at the top of the stick in a counter-balance diagonal.

Cut evergreens such as yew, boxwood, cedar, juniper or arborvitae into 3″ lengths. Cut the stem end on a sharp slant and insert into the dampened sphagnum moss until both forms are Read more

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