Christmas traditions in daycare

by Chava Sanderson

Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays in Denmark, not just on Christmas Day, but for the entire month of December. For Danes, the holiday season is a time to enjoy hyggelige traditions that often include music, food and drinks, candles, parties, and gift-giving. Virtually all daycares and schools in Denmark celebrate the holiday by introducing children to many of the season’s fun and magical traditions. Here are just a few of the most popular Christmas traditions you and your children will most likely encounter. (And from one parent to another, here is an extra warning – be prepared for an entire month full of sugar, music, and naughty elf pranks!) 

Julenisser - Christmas elves

Nisser are imaginary Christmas elves who often move into the daycare’s attic or basement at the beginning of December. Some nisser are lucky enough to have beds or furniture in the daycare. Some decorate the daycare with Christmas decorations, while others are mischievous and play pranks throughout the month. They may be naughty, or they may be nice, but they are ALWAYS elusive and never show themselves to anyone in the daycare.

Not all families in Denmark celebrate Christmas, but if your family does, you may also consider inviting a nisse into your home during the Christmas season. Christmas elves who live in homes usually get up to lots of mischief, and may also write letters or draw pictures for children to find in the morning. Children love waking up in the morning to see what type of mischief their elf has been up to and talking about the elf pranks with their daycare friends.

Arts and crafts

Woven paper hearts, personalized ornaments, and crafts made from wood, clay, felt, and paper are just a few of the common types of arts and crafts children create during the holiday season. Not only do children get to help decorate the daycare for Christmas, but they usually also create personalized gifts for their parents. Although some children have a hard time keeping the contents a secret, the gifts are wrapped and presented to their parents to be saved and opened on Christmas Eve. 

Santa Lucia

Santa Lucia is traditionally held on December 13th in honor of the Christian martyr St. Lucia. In Scandinavia, the festival is also a celebration of light on one of the shortest days of the year. Children in daycares and schools dress in white robes and hold (usually fake) candles while singing the Santa Lucia song. One girl is chosen to lead the procession and wears a crown of candles and a red sash. Although the Santa Lucia procession is traditionally only performed by girls, it is common for boys to participate in the daycare version. Nursery-aged children do not usually perform, but are often introduced to the tradition by watching the older children perform.

Daycares may choose to hold the event inside the daycare, outdoors, or in a public building like the local courthouse or a church. It is not uncommon for some parents to attend the event, although not everyone does, as it usually occurs during the day.  Here is a link to a Youtube video posted by a private Danish daycare. It is a good example of a typical Santa Lucia event. Click here to see the video

Julefrokost - Christmas lunch

Christmas lunches, called julefrokoster, are popular events where friends, families, or colleagues gather to enjoy traditional Christmas food and drinks. It is common for children to be introduced to their first julefrokost in daycare, and some daycares even encourage the children to dress up in Christmas attire for the special occasion. Daycares offer child-friendly menus, which usually include dishes like fish patties or fish filets, herring, meatballs, potatoes, red cabbage, rye bread with various toppings, and finger veggies. After the meal, children enjoy yummy desserts such as Christmas cookies or candy, fluffy pancake balls (æbleskiver) or sweet rice pudding (risalamande).  

Sweets and treats

Each December, Danish daycares are filled with the wonderful scents of fresh oranges, spices like ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg, and sweet baked goods. Not only do children get to enjoy eating Christmas sweets in December, but they often get to help make them too. It is common for children to make Christmas cookies, formed into different shapes with cookie cutters. On other days, they may enjoy a tasty gingerbread cookie while listening to a Christmas story or learning about a Christmas tradition.

Daycares may also occasionally serve traditional Christmas sweets like æbleskiver (fluffy pancake balls) or risalamande (sweet rice pudding). A more savory version of rice pudding called risengrød may also be served for lunch, or prepared as a surprise for the resident Christmas elf.    

Christmas church service

Many daycares in Denmark attend a Christmas service at the local church at least one time during the season. Christmas sermons for children are usually very informal and last about 20-30 minutes. During the service, children sing Christmas songs, which often include traditional Christmas hymns as well as secular Christmas music. The priest talks about the birth of Jesus, possibly including themes like the joy of gift-giving or the importance of caring for one another. It is common to make the sermon more child-friendly by incorporating puppets or other theatrical props into the service, and some priests may even include a fun treasure hunt or game. 

Traditionally, almost all daycares attended church services, but today, many choose to focus on the more non-religious aspects of the holiday.  However, most Danes who are not religious or who practice other faiths are happy to let their children participate in the religious traditions of the holiday season, as these traditions are often seen as a part of Danish culture and not necessarily a representation of one’s personal religious beliefs. 

Let's keep in touch

Get free tips, updates and exclusive offers in our monthly newsletter.

You can unsubscribe any time by clicking the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of our emails.

© 2022 New Kids in Denmark. All rights reserved.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. Click OK to accept cookies. Accept Read More

Privacy & Cookies Policy