Winter in Denmark is upon us. The sun doesn’t rise until eight in the morning and calls it quits early at about four. Temperatures are cold but that’s nothing compared to the wind that will nearly blow you over and make you cry involuntarily. As a Massachusetts native, I am no stranger to these facets of winter, but I have to say they do make days drag on a bit slower.
There’s one thing though, that makes the cold and darkness all worthwhile. Christmastime! The Danes don’t hold back when in comes to Christmas, and they enjoy celebrations early since they (obviously) lack the need to wait until after Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday season.
Christmas markets have popped up all around the city selling an array of goodies like fuzzy hats, honey, and glassware. The markets have a magical aura about them with everyone in the holiday spirit enjoying outings with their friends, families, and loved ones.
A personal favorite sold at the markets is a Nordic traditional holiday drink called gløgg. Gløgg is a mulled wine consisting of red wine, sugar, and spices like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and cloves and it smells like Christmas in a cup. You can buy gløgg, hot chocolate, waffles, warmed nuts, and many other goodies for your stroll—there’s something for everyone.
Another wonderful part of Christmas in Copenhagen is the iconic Tivoli Gardens. Tivoli is the second oldest amusement park in the world and it is truly a magical place. The Gardens close for winter but open twice to celebrate the Halloween and Christmas season respectively. While Tivoli is always characterized by beautiful lights and landscapes, its Christmas displays take things to a whole new level.
Tivoli is a winter wonderland surrounded by lights, fake snow, and rides for people of all ages. You can purchase unlimited rides with your entrance fee, buy individual tickets inside, or not go on any at all. I had already tried all the rides (multiple times each, in fact) earlier this year when the weather was warmer, but even the wind chill couldn’t stop me from getting on the swings on my latest visit. The ride is simple: a bunch of chain-swings that get raised up a tall pole that spins. While it’s not the most exhilarating ride in the park, the swings give a magnificent view of Copenhagen. The ride is most stunning at night when you have the best seat in the house to see the wonderfully illuminated park and city. Perks of the swings: the wind drowns out sound so you can sing whatever song you want up there and no one will know. My go-to has been Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” but “I Believe I Can Fly” and “I’m Like a Bird” are viable alternatives.
We were lucky enough to happen upon the light show that night as well, and it was a great way to culminate a wonderful visit to the Gardens. Every night, there is a light show over a pond in the middle of the park and the Christmas show was Nutcracker themed. It’s a Christmas tradition in my family to listen to the Nutcracker soundtrack when we decorate our tree at home so seeing a beautiful light show with spinning holograms and colorful shooting streams of water was an awesome experience that reminded me of my traditions at home.
It’s not just the Christmas Markets and Tivoli that make this Copenhagen festive though—the whole city is lined with lights and wreaths. The excitement is infectious, so much so that even Santa needed to pay a visit. Last Sunday, hundreds of people gathered in City Hall Square to celebrate the lighting of the tree. Enthralled faces watched as Santa climbed his way up the ladder and little children hopped frantically up and down believing it would help him light the tree. It really felt like I was part of a great community when everyone started counting down in Danish and the energy was palpable. At “en” or “one,” Santa’s wand sparked, the tree lit up, people cheered, and Christmas carols started playing. It was a beautiful tree and an even more beautiful moment I was lucky to enjoy.
If you’re looking to escape wintertime happiness and festivities, Scrooges of the world, don’t come to Copenhagen.
Happy Holidays everyone!!