• The International

It's getting hot in here!



It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, but get that bucket of water ready!


Photographs: iStock

Text: Heather Gartside


It’s a popular myth that plenty of shagging goes on in Scandinavia. In the 1960s, British design guru Terence Conran capitalised on the concept that good-looking Scandinavians indulge in hot sex all year round. An advertising campaign featured a pouting blonde curled up, hot and naked in a downy double bedroll. Conran’s feathered offerings flew off the shelves in record time from his swinging London store. Sex sells but, to be honest, the humble duvet is warm and cosy rather than hot. Following this lusty train of thought, I was curious when my Danish mother-in-law told me about cooking rice pudding wrapped in a duvet. It sounded messy to my Anglo Saxon ears, but farmor patiently explained how the down helped to form a warm insulation that would effectively cook the saucepan of boiling rice and milk to perfection. ‘Just don’t jump on the bed with your scandi playmate,’ I idly mused. Rice pudding in a duvet is serious stuff though, it’s the base for your classic Danish Christmas dessert, ris à l’amande when mixed with copious quantities of whipped cream, chopped almonds, sugar, and a HOT cherry sauce.


My half-Danish family and I love a Danish Christmas, and in the past nearly killed ourselves with our unattended candles

Light my fire

Danish Christmas traditions are very lovely, extremely tasty, very traditional and often very bad for you. It’s that time of the year when the sun staggers up in the morning at around 9 am, puts in a yellowy grey appearance until around 3 pm and then gives up and lets the consuming darkness swallow us alive. But the Danes know all this, and by mid-morning are out with their Zippos lighting candles with such gusto that these candlewax world record breakers ignite 3.5kg of candle wax each annually! Miraculous firelight brings hope and strength for the darkest and coldest months and the Danes flout all health and safety regulations in their quest for the eternal flame to warm the soul, to illuminate those good looking faces, and quite often burn their houses down. Also, a recent scientific study found the harmful effects of candle smoke included lung inflammation and toxicity, arteriosclerosis, and ageing effects on chromosomes in the lungs and spleen – råhygge!


Come home to a real fire

Some of the busiest times for Danish firemen are in December and January, as Danes across the nation eagerly saw dinky rustic platters on scary bandsaws, and then stick four fat candles in a cradle of clay adorned with darling sprigs of spruce, holly, mistletoe and nylon ribbons. It’s the time-honoured tradition of the adventskrans when a candle is lit every Sunday leading up to Jul. My half-Danish family and I love a Danish Christmas, and in the past nearly killed ourselves with our unattended candles while we happily set about some paper cutting or Konfekt making in another room. After two or three Sundays of drying out, those sprigs of pine were ready to combust and make a glorious fire.


Spontaneous festivities

Christmas trees contain some flammable compounds, as well as plenty of organic compounds (such as cellulose) that can serve as fuel for a fire; their needles provide lots of surface area that can come in contact with oxygen, and they’re often placed near sources of heat and electrical energy, such as electrical outlets, holiday lights, and (yes) those real candles on a Danish Christmas tree.


Towering inferno

Some seasonal alchemy: Fire is generally the result of a type of chemical reaction called combustion. This can occur when fuel in the form of an organic substance (that is, one that contains hydrogen and carbon) encounters an energy source (such as heat) in the presence of oxygen. If there is sufficient fuel, oxygen, and energy to set off a chain reaction, combustion will occur, producing heat, light, carbon dioxide, and water as a result. Here is the unbalanced, general combustion reaction:


organic fuel + o2 + h2o + energy

Come home to a real fire in Denmark? I sincerely hope not, just keep a bucket of water handy! Be merry, be warm, and ever vigilant for naked flames and naked Danes curled up in bed around your saucepan of perfect rice pudding – in a Duvet!


You can find entertaining Heather’s first novel, Rice Pudding In A Duvet at all online book stores at ISBN: 1717159974, or signed copies along with some of her artwork at the Christmas exhibition at MY BEAUTIFUL GALLERY at Rungsted Kyst (See listings)