My heathen Christmas

The holidays have come and gone so quickly. My annual journey to visit family is over and so it’s time to reflect on one of the highlights – my first European Christmas.

I was invited by my cousin’s Danish fianc√© Klavs, to spend Christmas at their home in Durban – well Christmas eve to be more conventional. Danes celebrate on 24 December what is known as Juleaften, which literally means “Yule evening.” This pagan tradition was incorporated into Christianity centuries ago by the Germanic Peoples of Europe.

max2

We had roast pork, duck,¬†caramelised potatoes, red cabbage and gravy for dinner. For dessert we had rice pudding with chopped almonds. All exactly as the Danes would have back home. The rice pudding even contained a whole almond which someone is supposed to find in his or her bowl, and be rewarded with a present. All very Danish…

After dinner Santa showed up (a friend of Klavs, and known as the Julemanden in Danish) to give the kids some presents. Santa in the Danish tradition may have absorbed some elements of the god Odin who is associated with the pagan festival of Yule. Amusingly, Santa’s left knee took a bit of a pounding from the kids – all four of them.

erik13

max6

Later we lit up the raisin sprinkled Christmas tree with real candles, not the schmaltzy electric flashing lights you see so often these days, placed many wrapped presents underneath, and danced around it in a circle hands joined, while Klavs sung some traditional Danish songs which sounded rather jolly. But there were no hymns and carols and not so much as a peep about Jesus and all that other Christianny stuff. All delightfully heathen, as it should be.

I did score some presents myself, but was rather mortified that I did not get anyone else anything in return. But I was just expecting dinner, nothing so magnificent as this. Off course there is next year and perhaps I’ll even learn a Danish song…