Christmas begins a day early in the Little House as the Danish contingent likes to have their main celebration on Christmas Eve or Juleaften in Danish.
Lots of Danes enjoy roast goose on Christmas Eve but we prefer a ham. This is served with caramelised potatoes (truly delicious), red cabbage and peas and carrots in a light parsley sauce. The most important item though is dessert - the traditional rice pudding risalamande, made with whipped cream and chopped almonds and served with cherries (ours were in kirsch - yum). One almond is left whole and whoever finds this in their portion wins the marzipan pig! I know, it does all sound pretty peculiar and it's quite disconcerting to see everyone examining each and every almond piece in the hopes that they are the winner. This year it was little old me but I'm much too fond of the piggy, with his smart red ribbon, to dare eat any of it.
This seasonal Scandinavian version of bingo with images of Danish decorations and Christmas characters is taken very seriously and is fiercely competitive. To start with, a line will win you a present and then a full house but a fair amount of cheating goes not to mention 'fixing' by the caller. Presents are small but beautifully wrapped and each with a red ribbon. Sometimes silly and often practical, this year they included lens wipes and ice scrapers!
Finally, exhausted by the whole event (and the schnapps), stockings are put out, a carrot for Rudolph and a drink for Santa Claus or Julemanden (literally 'Yule Man'). He is assisted with his Yuletide chores by elves known as nisse. These Danish-style elves are more tricky than their English cousins. Traditionally it's believed that they live in attics or barns. It's important to keep in favour with them or you may find they will play a nasty trick on you or even ruin your luck.We always leave a few extra Christmas biscuits to be on the safe side.