SPECIAL OCCASIONS IN DENMARK
Most Danes are Lutherans and the majority of those who aren’t are Roman Catholics. But festivities celebrated are not always of a religious nature. Birthdays, Midsummer Eve, even the start of the crayfish season are all celebrated as avidly as Christmas, Easter, weddings, and christenings.
Drinking itself can be a special occasion and has a prescribed ritual. All Scandinavian countries share the custom of Shoal (or Shal). The host begins by meeting the eye of his guest. Together they wordlessly down their drinks without shifting their gaze. When the ritual is complete, the glass is raised with a slight bow of the head and lowering of the eyes. Women, particularly a hostess, are usually not part of this custom.
Although there are some distinctive characteristics in foods and customs from one Scandinavian country to another, festivities bring a delicious blend of wondrous cooking aromas and happy sharing of the very best food. Typically, repeated Shoals echo through any occasion, are washed down with beers and continual helpings of foods, and end with coffee and sips of Cherry Heering or maybe even a Glogg (hot spiced wine punch) or two.
Early in December, kitchens begin bustling with the furor of Christmas cookie baking, preparation of hams, lutefisk (traditional Christmas Eve dish made from lye-cured cod served with mustard sauce), liver pate – the list is endless. Then there is the special Christmas smorrebrod with its array of fish, pickled and smoked dishes, salads, cold meats and hot dishes, breads of every kind, cheeses, cream-filled cakes, and crispy cookies.
Christmas foods are unquestionably the most outstanding but every festivity is celebrated with the best one has and always with one more helping. This can be fully understood when one remembers that even a gathering of friends is a special occasion to the gregarious Danes.