Text: Monika Pedersen
December brings a wave of excitement, especially for children, as it marks the countdown to the festive season and all the wonders it brings. Along the way, there are traditions and events to maintain the momentum, which always remain special.
Both at school and at home, advent calendars are kept. The chance to open a door each morning brings incredible excitement. A way to do this in a primary classroom is to transform a noticeboard with a series of doors the children have drawn and coloured. Behind each door lies a practical special treat such as a chance to have extended recess time or watch their favourite educational programme.
It is not a tradition known everywhere, but in many international schools, Saint Nicholas, a saint who was known for his generosity and kindness, especially towards children, is celebrated. On the eve of 5 December, children put out their shoes. As per the tradition, at home or school, on the morning of 6 December, children discover their shoes full of sweets and candies!
13 December celebrates Santa Lucia Day in Denmark and many other countries, especially Sweden. It is a Christian tradition that celebrates a third-century female martyr who was killed for her efforts to bring food to those being persecuted. Lucia wore a crown of lights on her head, like a torch, also regarded as a festival of light to help people through the long winter days.
At school, selected students dress in white for the Lucia parade. The school corridors are flanked by the classes while the selected group of students, often from Scandinavian countries, slowly walk in parade-like style, carrying candles and singing the traditional, lovely and haunting song of 'Santa Lucia'.
The festive season brings people together; a particular tradition is making decorations together. At school, this is often a late afternoon activity, so parents and their children can make a candle wreath together whilst enjoying the company of each other and their teachers.
"In the older years, activity leaders or teachers set aside time at school so classes can bake cookies together."
In the older years, activity leaders or teachers set aside time at school so classes can bake cookies together. Danes adore marzipan, nougat, and chocolate, so these enticing flavours influence the beautifully decorated cookies! It is also a time of sharing, and very often, the cookies made at home are wrapped and given as presents to friends and teachers.
Celebrating the four weekends before Christmas Eve is very special. Much time and artistic flair are invested in making an advent wreath with four candles. The first candle is lit on the first Sunday, and it represents 'Hope'. On the second Sunday, the first and the second candles are lit. The second signifies 'Love'. The third Sunday's candle is synonymous with 'Joy', and the fourth is 'Peace'.
Quite amazingly, a daily advent candle is permitted at school, so each day, at the teacher's desk, the candle is lit, and the students gaze on in wonder and flag up the time to extinguish it, ready for the coming day.
And, of course, the tradition of a Christmas tree or several is upheld, along with Christmas carol evenings accompanied by sweet red wine, Gløgg' as it is known and ginger or cinnamon biscuits, known as 'pebernødder' or 'brune kager'.
The traditions remain the same and are repeated year after year, but their magic and wonder never cease to kindle a spirit of warmth and love, which one hopes can enrich our world a little.