A Danish Christmas Tradition
I have the pleasure of once again being in Denmark for work during the month of December, thus the Christmas season. This year serendipity had it that during my wanders through the downtown area of Aalborg that I happened upon the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
There was your typical brass band decked out in red jackets and black pants playing favourite Christmas tunes. Parents and grandparents were out with kiddies in tow to listen to the music and take part in the celebration. It wasn’t much different from Christmas tree lighting ceremonies that I have experienced in Canada except that it was warmer outside and I didn’t understand much, well nothing really, that the announcer was saying.
It was pretty obvious when Julemanden (pronounced something like yooleman’n) came on the scene that he was the man of the hour and the guy who would do the honours of lighting the Christmas tree. Yes, Julemanden is the Danish name for Santa Clause or St. Nicholaus. It was a joy to behold: Julemanden, with his real white hair and beard, played bells for the band and sang some Christmas songs for the crowd. There was some apparently amusing banter between the announcer and Julemanden and then Julemanden and his little helper were taken to the top of the giant tree in the cherry picker of the local fire truck. There was, of course, the excitement of the countdown and then the lights were plugged in. Then, much to my surprise and delight, everyone joined hands and walked around the Christmas tree singing what I surmised to be traditional tree lighting songs. I joined in humming along with the music.
Now, this is really about the thing that surprised me the most: there were bags of baby soothers hanging on several of the branches of the tree that people could reach. Hanging from Julemanden’s belt was a length of thin rope which almost reached to his knee on which was affixed…yes, again, baby soothers. This is something which I had never seen before so I had to ask the colleagues from my office here in Denmark why people hang soothers from the tree and why Julemanden had them hanging from his belt. Well, I think the Danes have a good idea here: children give their soothers to Santa when they are done with them.
I think it’s kind of a nice rite of passage…to give your soother to Santa. It might be a bit easier for a little one to handle giving up something to which they may be strongly attached to Santa rather than having to give it up to the gaping mouth of the garbage bin.
So, along with carrots for Rudolph, Comet, Cupid, et al and the milk and cookies for Santa maybe we should think about adding this Danish tradition to our own Canadian ones and have our little ones hang their soothers on the local town square Christmas tree so Jolly old St. Nick can take care of them just in case they are ever needed again.