• swarbrickconnie

Danish Canadian Museum Advent Calendar December 19th 2020

There is one Christmas tale many have to read every year in Denmark it is the famous Peter's Jul.

Peter’s Christmas

Jeg glæder mig i denne tid – nu falder julesneen hvid – så ved jeg, Julen kommer. (I’m happy in this season – now the Christmas snow is falling white – then I know, Christmas is coming.) So begins Peters Jul (Peter’s Christmas), an old children’s book that still colours the way Danes view Christmas…

Preparation of æbleskiver for Christmas. Drawing from the original book. (Copyright expired; found at Wikimedia Commons.)

Published by Johan Krohn in 1866, the illustrated book has become a Danish Christmas classic that keeps turning up again and again in Danish homes. I guess generally julen [yooln] is a nostalgic time for many Danes, where you take on your rose-coloured glasses and look back at the ”good old days” – before nytår (New Year) sets in and it’s time to party and look forward.

Here’s a classical quote from the story to give you some idea of the mood. The main character, drengen (the boy) Peter, hears his bedstemor (grandmother) telling a story about Julemanden (Santa Claus):

Et dejligt juletræ han bær’,

det største vist i skoven.

Hans skæg når lige til hans knæer;

og på hans hat for oven

et lille julelys der står;

det stråler, og det skinner

på næsen og det hvide hår

og på hans røde kinder.

Og gade op og gade ned

sit træ han om vil bære;

hvor alle bo, bestemt han ved,

derpå kan vis man være

A lovely Christmas tree he carries,

the biggest, apparently, in the forest.

His beard reaches him to his knees;

and on top of his hat

a little Christmas candle is standing;

it’s sparkling, and it’s shining

on his nose and his white hair

and on his red cheeks.

And up and down the streets

he’ll carry his tree around;

where everybody lives, he knows precisely,

thereof you can be certain.

Ved husets Dør han stille står

og lytter meget længe;

han vide må, før ind han går,

om der er slemme drenge.

Og hører han, at far er vred,

imens han træet tænder,

han rokker straks ad trappen ned

og ud på gaden render.

By the door of the house he stands silently

and listens for a long time;

he has to know, before he enters,

if there are norty boys.

And if he hears that Dad is mad

while lighting [the candles] of the tree,

he immediately wobbles down the stairs

and hurries onto the street.

Men, hører han, at far og mor

er glad for deres drenge,

imens de pynte julebord

og lys i træet hænge,

da ler den gamle Julefar

og ind i stuen smutter.

Sit lys fra hatten ned han ta’er,

det funkler, og det futter;

med det han hen til træet går

og nikker i det samme,

straks fra hvert lille Lys der står

en klar og dejlig flamme.

But if he hears that Dad and Mum

are fond of their boys,

while decorating their Christmas table

and hanging candles in their tree,

then old Father Christmas laughs

and slips into the living room.

His candle he takes down from his hat,

it sparkles and it burns;

with it he walks to the tree

and nods in the same moment,

immediately from each candle springs

a bright and lovely flame.

We follow little Peter and his family from the Christmas preparations until after New Year. From the hushed voices in the corridors and quickly hidden Christmas ornaments, to the baking of cookies and ordering of candles, red ribbons and prunes. From the goose to the cakes and the making of presents.

The book opens with these famous phrases:

I am so