The holiday season is upon us! When you look at a Dane’s calendar this time of year, you will most likely see one word repeat for all the weekends leading up to Christmas: Julefrokost.
Directly translated as Christmas Lunch, Julefrokost (pronounced: you-leh-fro-cost) has become a staple of Danish life in late November and through December. Workplaces throw them in favour of the annual Christmas party, and friends host them to celebrate cheer, goodwill, and good times.
I once introduced the concept of a Julefrokost to some American friends, and the concept seemed lost on them, “It sounds like you just get together and drink in December—doesn’t that just make it a holiday party?” I struggled to counter the claim at the time, but I’ve tried to break down a few essential ingredients, that you most likely won’t find at any other standard holiday party, that are necessary to host a successful Julefrokost.
Here are the 5 essentials of Julefrokost:
No Danish meal is complete without a course of Smørrebrød. Known is English as the open-faced sandwich—smørrebrød is a collection of cold cuts, pate’s, or salads, laid on top of classic Danish rye bread. They range from being very simplistic, to complex culinary combinations. The great thing about this dish is that it can easily be eaten throughout the Julefrokost. Just place the rye bread on the table with a selection of toppings, and the guests can do the rest.
As Denmark is surrounded by water, seafood has always been prominent in the culture. That’s why you can’t have a traditional Julefrokost without sild! Sild, or herring, is traditionally served pickled in a variety of spices. There are numerous flavors available, and each one complements well with our next essential.
Although beers is a necessity for any Julefrokost, or any Danish gathering in general, a little snaps glass filled to the brim is a must at your table. Snaps plays an important role, not only in the creation of a more festive mood, but also to be paired with the sild above. Toasts are also a frequent occurrence during the Julefrokost, and you can’t have a legitimate toast without a sip of snaps at its conclusion!
Danes enjoy singing during the holiday season. Christmas eve is filled with traditional Christmas songs for the whole family that are mainly sung while dancing around the Christmas tree. However, the songs of Julefrokost aren’t always family friendly. Here is a chance to belt out some more risqué holiday tunes, and each place setting at the Julefrokost table should have the lyrics of the songs that will be sung throughout the evening. Depending on how much snaps is being shared, be prepared to go off book for some impromptu songs
In the end, a Julefrokost is a Christmas Lunch. This means that, in contrast to a mingle filled holiday party, the whole event has a table as its focal point. It’s a crazy party and a multiple course meal, all in one. The Danes know the importance of staying close during the darker winter season, and a candle lit dinner table filled with loved ones is one of the best ways to connect and socialise. This doesn’t mean that you will be locked in your seats for the whole night—people have a tendency to switch around after the food has been eaten—but the setting is still a sit down meal.
There you have 5 essentials of any Julefrokost. Hopefully this will inspire you to go out and make this Danish tradition a global one!
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