• swarbrickconnie

Danish Canadian Museum Advent Calendar December 23rd 2020

Well its Day 23, One day left in our Christmas Advent Calendar. Today has been a struggle, this old laptop is fighting me through to the end of this calendar. With any hope we will get a new laptop .

It has been a heartfelt month of wonderful stories, fun traditions and history. Today we have two things that are my absolute FAVORITE.

Number one our NISSE!! Today I discuss who they are, how to keep them happy, you know the important stuff. I remember the first time I heard of these delightful creatures. I was hooked!! The idea of little people helping and watching, made so much sense and explained so much at the museum, that is always going on. I think that a lot of Nisse must have immigrated to Canada with there family's and then over time made there way to the museum. Be sure to keep your eyes out for our little Nisse.

The second thing of course is memories, this advent has been with the intention of helping bring back memories and perhaps create new ones. I know a lot of our members are stuck at home, with very few visitors and not a lot of hope of seeing loved ones for Christmas. Our precious memories are what we have this holiday season to keep our spirits up and joy in our hearts.

Two traditions that bring back memories are:

One of my favorite memories as a child was going to get a Christmas tree with my father, always on day before Christmas Eve, today. We would go out with our skidoo, cut it down and put it in our big tobbgan, pull it home, put it up. Then my dad would do the lights they were his favorite part, we would all string popcorn, and make decorations.


This song is my absolute favorite Christmas song! I learned it when I was 10 years old for a Christmas concert . My grade 5 teacher was also the music teach he was a vet who had lost his ears in a war. As a ten year old girl I was amazed at how good he was at music without ears. When I hear this song I always think of him, that Christmas concert when I had my first Christmas solo. Since then my Christmas must song is Alabama Thistlehair the Christmas Bear.

Danish Traditions

Sweeten up Nisse with rice pudding

This isn’t a special Danish tradition, as every country has legends and stories, for Christmas elves that appear during that special time of the year. But it is worth mentioning that in Denmark as well as in the other Scandinavian countries the mythological creature that visits people’s houses on Christmas Eve is Nisse. According to the myth, the playful creature expects to find rice pudding or porridge for him on the terrace. In order to bring luck in the coming year, some Danes still make sure to have prepared the Christmas delicacy the day before.

Dance around the tree

Once everyone has cleaned up their plates and the Christmas dinner is over, it’s time for some singing and dancing. Everyone, no matter their country, likes to end their Christmas dinner on a happy note. The difference is that Danes dance around the Christmas tree while singing Christmas songs, carols, and hymns. “Nu er det jul igen” (“Now it’s Christmas again”) and “Dejlig Er Den Himmel Blå” (“Lovely it’s the blue sky”) are among the top choices for that special moment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0qYyWd9VJo (Now its Christmas again, remake Danish artist)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOoc821rAgg (traditional Version)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5mdybeyLVc (Best Christmas Carol)


There are many types of Nisse not to be confused with other creatures here are some examples.

Types of Nisse

Woodland Gnome Or forest gnome is the most common, resembles ordinary gnome. Kind, helpful, avoids contact with man, mischievous sense of humor.

Dune Gnome A fraction larger, he too, avoids contact with man.

Garden Gnome He lives in old gardens, even those hemmed in between new houses. Rather sombre and enjoys telling melancholy tales. He is quite learned, sometimes feels out of place in the woods.

Farm Gnome Resembles the house gnome good natured but is of a more constant nature and is conservative in all matters.

House Gnome A special sort resembling an ordinary gnome, he has the most knowledge of mankind. Owing to the fact that he often inhabits historic old houses, seen and heard a great deal. He speaks and understands man’s language. Good-natured, always ready for a lark or to tease; never malevolent.

Siberian Gnome He is centimetres larger than the European type and associates with trolls. In certain regions they are not to be trusted, taking revenge for the slightest offence by killing cattle, causing bad harvests, droughts, abnormally cold weather, and so forth. The less said about him, the better.

Nisse ( pronounced Nisser) have been living in Denmark since the world was young. In 1200AD a statue 15cms high was discovered in Norway, carved on the pedestal were the words ‘Nisse, Riktig Storrelse’ which means gnome actual height.  Nisse can grow to 2ft tall but most are smaller. There are different types of Nisse, some live in the woods, others gardens, barns or houses but all Nisse are self sufficient in the ways of the old country crafts.  Nisse are close to their families and may move house with them while Tomte are more connected to the place they live.

Danish – Nisse

Swedish – Tomte or Nisse (a Vatte lives under the house wearing all black with a black beard).

Norwegian – Tomte or Nisse

English – gnome

The most distinctive things about Nisse are their red pointed hats, their love of looking after animals, their love of practical jokes and that they help the families they live with if treated with love and respect, all they ask for is a bowl of porridge and a glass of glogg each Christmas eve night, but they will become mischievous (never malevolent) with the family if they are not treated well.

There are many books about Nisse/Tomte and Gnomes for sale especially on the internet, here are a few;

‘Gnomes’  by Rien Poortvliet and Wil Huygen

‘The Tomten’  by Astrid  Lindgren

‘The Tomten and the Fox’  By Astrid Lindgren ’Winter Frost‘ by Michelle Houts


Nisse ARE Not Goblins or Trolls- All to often people do not know the difference so lets have a look shall we.

Nisse, Tomte, Gnomes.

15cm – 2 ft tall. Happy little all round craftsmen, takes care of animals. Will be helpful if looked after but has a mischievous personality and will play tricks if not appreciated and fed there porridge on Christmas Eve.

Creatures Not to be mistaken for Nisse!


30cm. Live in large forests and are malevolent and hateful.


1 metre tall. Black filthy hair, stupid, primitive, distrustful, strong and smelly.