Some stories

Christmas in Denmark - Cat sitting - ******** - ********

Christmas in Denmark

In all the Scandinavian countries, Christmas is a time for celebration. Denmark is no exception, and we start on the first of December. Personally, we started a little earlier with our annual visit to the Town Hall square where Father Christmas and the Mayor get lifted up on the fire-engine's ladder to light the tree's lights. That is on the last Friday in November, and when those lights come on, so do the street light-decorations.

(Myrtle is just visible below - lower right)
Christmas tree in front of the Town Hall
The tree with street-light decorations

This year it started to rain before we left home, but settled down to a drizzle while we were waiting for the lights. By the time we had walked through the streets (all pedestrian only in the city centre) it had settled in to steady rain, so we found that on our way back to the car, our showerproof clothes were definitely only that !

By the way, in the last 102 years, there have been only 6 'White Christmases' and the last was in 1995, the second Christmas we have had here !

On the first of December, Christmas really starts with some very traditional activities. Of these, we are particularly keen on three. The first is the Christmas Calendar in the home, the second are the Christmas lights, and the third is the Christmas Calendar on television.

Every home has a Christmas Calendar hung up somewhere - ours is in the entrance hall where the cats can't reach it ! It consists of 24 pockets and we place a little decoration in each one every day. That is very basic, and in Danish households (especially with children of any age !) the opposite is done. Every pocket starts with a little gift to be taken out every day. Variations such as a box of 24 chocolates, or a lottery card with 24 possibilities are also popular, although more commercial.
Our holly tree with its lights

Lights are a very strong feature of Danish tradition, so there will always be a second Calendar on the table; this is a tall candle marked off in the 24 days, so is lit every day until one section is consumed. Candles are very much a part of the way of life, so there will be many candles in a home, particularly ones that are lit at family mealtimes. Any house with a garden, or just a front 'path' will have a tree with electric lights from the 1st. Our one is a holly tree in the garden,

although we tend to start our decorations around the 13th of December as we go on to Twelth Night (the 6th January) as in the English tradition. In England our family always used to put up our house tree and decorations on Christmas Eve, but we nowadays usually do that 10 days or so beforehand.
Our Christmas tree (yes, still the old one!)

By the way, we have to explain that Christmas proper starts on Julaften (24th December) when all families get together for the feast. Juledag (25th December) is a more minor part of the festivities, and Andenjuledag (26th December) is the last of the holiday.

On television there will be at least two series. Usually a late afternoon one for the children, and an evening one for everybody. There used to be four programmes every night when we first moved here, but presumably commercial considerations caused a reduction. At any rate, they normally feature 'Nisse', and that is the next story.


In Danish mythology and even modern day folklore, there are many, many stories about the Nisse. The word translates as pixy or goblin, and in all the stories, they share many of the same characteristics.

In our Danish dictionary, this is how they are described;
"a little man with grey clothes and a red cap who lives on farms and teases the farmer. Also appears in stories and traditions at Christmas time".

Poster for a childrens play

As you can see from the picture, even though they tease the farmers, they like cats !

The best farmers like them as they can be helpful if treated kindly; putting out bowls of risengrød (a gruel of rice and milk) for them at night. As they like warm, hidden, places to live, that is often in the lofts of the houses and barns. For many years television has put on Nisse stories at Christmas. Early evening ones are of course for the younger children, and very often are about the more recent role of the Nisse as 'Santa's little helpers'. (Here, Father Christmas is called Julemand.) The evening ones range from the surreal to the old-fashioned ! Until we learnt some Danish, the surreal ones were beyond us, but our taste has gradually adapted to them now that we have some understanding of them, although we usually have the subtext switched on so dialects don't confuse us.

In recent years we have seen in the evening series (24 of course) three main types of stories.
The first has as its theme Julemand's toy factory with the Nisse helpers.
The second follows the adventures of the children in a family when they try to contact Julemand, and get involved with Nisse.
The third, and our favourite, is about the Nisse who live in the cellar of the State Library. That is itself in the lower floors of Copenhagens Town Hall. The head Nisse is an academic, who over his centuries has researched many subjects, so tries to be helpful to the head librarian by leaving him secret messages as to where to find information in the old books. Of course, the younger Nisse get everything into a mess ! To really research a subject, they get izzy whizzed into the right chapter of a book, and talk to the characters there from both fact and fiction. To us, both educational and enjoyable.
Cat sitting at 335

In July 2003 Gerd and Wasse had the chance to go to Switzerland at very short notice. So they asked me if I could look after their cats for the week they would be away. These are a few pictures to remember the occasion!
The first evening, the rose bed was starting to look good.

The rose bed was nearly in full bloom

Turning around to walk back to let myself in, I saw this pathetic sight! Not the new flower bed, but poor little Mons waiting for Mum.

What time do you call this!

For anyone who didn't know, it looks as if Mons is permanently shut out. Of course, that was just to make me feel sorry for her, as she has a perfectly good cat door!

All alone and feeling blue

This is the view from indoors. I opened the door for her (of course!) and said, "What did your last servant die of?" Once in, she allowed me to stroke her and get the supper ready.

I'm still waiting
Tak for det

Ming was already waiting inside. He now has a regular helping of yeast tablets every day, and once he was convinced that I knew where they were kept, he was wide awake and ready for them.

About time too!

While Ming was having his treat, Mons was getting down to the serious business of supper,

I prefer this one

but Ming prefers the tinned food - at least, while I was watching.

Having served up the supper, I checked the outside water bowl, and then had a look for the elusive 'kittens'. Before that week, they had never been visible, but hearing a crash, I had another look around.

Peek-a-boo, I can see YOU

Here is the Havana girl, Ting. She must be beginning to appreciate having me come around, as she let me get close enough to get this picture. The crash, by the way, came from her having tried to climb up an old pallet by the side of the garage, and bringing the whole lot down!

Oops, you found me.
Just around the corner was Ping, the Siamese boy, who was keeping stum.

The final check was to make sure that they had water and food in the cellar (where their cat door is). Phew! The smell quickly guided me to a dead bird, and Ting greatly disapproved of me removing it to the dustbin!(I left the feathers for them!)

What are you doing with our bird?
Kom godt hjem
Ting came out to see me off - I think that she had decided that I could not be all bad, as although I had stolen the bird, I had left them all full dishes.

Back to menu page Menu