The whole December is all about Christmas. At least here in DK. It is supposed to be time for coziness (hygge if you want it in Danish). Really, there is nothing else to do than have it cozy as it is dark outside, rainy and mostly sunless. But this coziness doesn’t fall from the sky just like that (sorry if it doesn’t make much sense to say it that way, I just translated this saying from Armenian). It requires efforts and time to create and maintain it throughout this month, the darkest month of the year. And I love it. Really. I mean it.
For me the first parameter of creating the December-Christmas-coziness is lights. I like those small, warm, yellow lights sparkling here and there from the shrubs, houses, trees, hedges. So, just before the 1st December we opened the box with our Christmas decorations to find the lights. When they were distributed on the both garages of ours, I was like ‘is this all we’ve got?’. Well, the same question raised with decorations later that day. However, I had to cheer everybody up and immediately added ‘it is not that we don’t have enough decorations, we just have got a big house and a big garden’. And everybody was relieved. At least that was what I assumed.
Decorations with natural materials and candles are on second place for making the cheerful Christmas mood. I like the smell of the pine and candle wax (yes, that smell that is toxic) in the house and the idea that we bring some kind of a nature into the house. Those two mentioned are enough for me to enter to Christmas mode.
However, Danish Christmas reality requires the presence of semi mythological folkloric elf-like creatures called nisser (plural), especially when there are small ones at home. Miss A is fascinated about them as they put small gifts in her Christmas sock and like teasing her (and children in general), like wrapping her snowsuit in toilet paper or putting rice in her boots.
There are lots of traditions connected to Christmas here in Denmark. But since I am from Armenia and don’t carry those traditions in my blood and genes, we skip some of them 😉 This is fortunately quite nice as following all and each of the Christmas traditions can be quite stressful. And, you know, each family defines its own traditions, right? At least, I like that idea that one can. And I try to skip things that are less enjoyable, for example baking cookies, cutting out paper hearts (I am really awful to this) and visiting Tivoli. Sorry Tivoli, too many people per square meter make me claustrophobic.
And I found a solution to the most stressful engagement of Christmas, buying gifts. The first year I was here I tried gift shopping in a overcrowded mall at the end of December, and learned at lot from that experience. So, since then I have been doing this activity in October and November, so by the 1st of December gifts are bought and the only thing is back is to wrap them in a gift paper. When all the gifts are bought, Christmas coziness starts.
Unlike most of the Danes, for who Christmas ends after Danish Christmas, at us it lasts to after the 6th of January. The 6th of January is the Armenian Christmas which is Three Kings’ day here in DK and probably at many other Western Christian churches. So, decorations and Christmas spirit lasts longer than normal in our family, and we celebrate two Christmases. Very confusing for a child, who also believes that there is this Danish Santa (Julemand in Danish) that visits her from Greenland and Armenian Winter Father (Dzmer Pap in Armenian) that visits her from mount Ararat. But the perk of having two cultures is indeed that she gets two gifts from two different Santas. I know we are raising a materialistic child.
When I say maintaining the Christmas mood, I mean we make efforts to constantly remind us about the Christmas. We visit Christmas bazaars, read stories about nisser, talk about Santas, eat fritters (æbleskiver) and decorate little by little. Decorating as the months goes on might sound a bit weird to many people. But I relax that way. No reason to rush, you know. Who said that the house should be decorated in a day with a huge stress to everybody (I have tried that).
What we use in our decorations is beautiful things (at least we think they are beautiful) we find in nature. Then we combine those things with candles and usually cinnamon, dried oranges, anise and cloves. My mother-in-law makes really beautiful things that she sells during the Christmas bazaar. I got really gorgeous moss, larch cones, birch wood and many other things from her that I used to make the decorations for us.
It is already the second year we make homemade candy with Miss A. And I can claim that it has become a lovely tradition as it is among many families around in DK.
We made two types of chocolate balls and a rocky road. The easiest candy ever, you know it yourself.
We mixed 1 cup sugar, 1,5 cup rolled oats, 5 tablespoons of cocoa powder and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract in a bowl, mixed well and divided the mix into 2 small bowls.
Since we discovered that our food processor was dysfunctional, we had to manually chop down 140 g dried apricots and 150 g dates and add to the first bowl and 250 cashew nuts and add them to the second bowl. Then we added 120 g melted butter to each of bowl and mixed until we got dough like consistency. If our food processor wasn’t broken down, we could just separately puls the mix of the two bowls and add the melted butter.
Then we rolled the dough into balls. Rolling the dough with dried fruits was OK, but we were challenged with the one with nuts, because the nuts weren’t nicely incorporated into the sugar and oat mix, they were way too chunky. So, we had to spoon the mix into the chocolate forms and let them dry. They turned rather fine. We decorated our candy with sprinkles, dried strawberries and shredded coconut.
For rocky road we mixed together 10 big marshmallows cut into small pieces, 200g hazelnuts (we didn’t chop them) and 125g cranberries with 400g melted dark chocolate. We decorated the treat with shredded coconut and dried strawberries.
Miss A was really happy with the results. After the candy was refrigerated for a couple of hours, we tasted them and she with a great satisfaction said that she thought everybody was going to love the candy she made. She was right.