24 December: I wonder why Danes are so closed up and withdrawn during Christmas

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Zbigniew Sobkowicz is librarian at the Nobel Park. He is from France but keeps both French and Polish traditions.

2019.12.24 | Anna Bech Sørensen

Graphics: Astrid Reitzel

The Omnibus Advent Calendar:

The Advent calendar is a treasured Danish Christmas tradition. In many families, kids get to open a small gift each day all December until Christmas Eve, when Christmas is celebrated.

Our small holiday gift to you is a chance to meet one of AU’s many international students and employees every day until Christmas.

All 24 will share where they’re spending Christmas this year, their favorite (and least favorite) Christmas traditions from their home countries,  and what’s most annoying – or surprising – about Christmas in Denmark.

How are you going to celebrate Christmas this year?

I’m having a traditional Danish Christmas with my wife’s family. We’ll be having dinner together and dancing round the Christmas tree. Apart from the traditional Danish Christmas food, we’ll also be having beetroot soup (barszcz). It’s a Polish tradition that I still hold on to. My parents were from Poland, so I keep both Polish and French traditions.

What is the best/worst Christmas tradition from your home country?

France is a big country, so Christmas traditions vary a lot from place to place. When I grew up, my Christmas was probably more Polish than French. The best thing was that the whole family got together for dinner. And you didn't have to hold back!

The worst thing was that it was very patriarchal. For example, the patriarch of the family - often the father - shared out unleavened bread to each member of the family, and he said a few words about each person as he went around the family. It was very solemn, and for me it was actually a bit embarrassing.

What is the most annoying thing about Danish Christmas?

After 40 years in Denmark, I still wonder why we call it ‘dancing around the Christmas tree’. It's not dancing. We just sort of shuffle slowly around and sing in a dirge - we don’t wake up until we sing the jolly Nu er det jul igen (Now it’s Christmas again) and run all around the house.

I also wonder why Danes are so closed up and withdrawn during Christmas. They only invite the family. When I was young, my parents always set an extra place at the table, just in case someone came by. My father also invited a stranger from the street. But that was just after the war, so many people were very poor. Still, I think it’s a good tradition. You shouldn’t be a jerk on Christmas Eve. 

- Joyeux Noël / Wesołych świąt!

The Omnibus Advent Calendar:

The Advent calendar is a treasured Danish Christmas tradition. In many families, kids get to open a small gift each day all December until Christmas Eve, when Christmas is celebrated.

Our small holiday gift to you is a chance to meet one of AU’s many international students and employees every day until Christmas.

All 24 will share where they’re spending Christmas this year, their favorite (and least favorite) Christmas traditions from their home countries,  and what’s most annoying – or surprising – about Christmas in Denmark.

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