Danish Canadian Museum Advent - December 7th 2020
Viking Christmas traditions that you might never have known:
While most people are aware that the Christian’s celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas, the Pagans celebrate the Solstice the returning of the sun festival which occurred on December 25th. The Norse themselves also celebrated the solstice around this period with what they called the Yule festival, and many of those traditional practices were adopted and made their way into our modern Christmas.
The Christmas tree, wreaths, and mistletoe, all have their roots in Germanic and Norse traditions. Evergreen trees were often decorated, usually with food and statues of the gods, to try and entice the tree spirits of the forests to return from the dead and bring about spring.
Mistletoe also had mythical importance. Norse legend told of how the god of light, Balder, was slain by an arrow of mistletoe, but was resurrected when his mother’s tears turned the berries of the plant white. Thus, it represented resurrection and hope for the end of winter.
The Christmas wreath similarly sought to entice the end of winter, though in contrast to our practice of simply hanging it on a door, the Vikings would set alight and roll it down a hill to tempt the return of the sun.
Perhaps most striking of the Viking traditions which has made it into our Christmas is the person of Father Christmas and his Reindeer. During the Yule celebrations someone would be selected to be dressed up as old man winter a white-bearded man to dressed in a hooded fur coat, thought to represent Odin.
This individual would travel around the community, joining in with the various celebrations, this figure, when introduced into England, soon became the modern Father Christmas.
Santa and his reindeer find their roots in the Norse Yule Goat. According to legend, Thor, the god of Thunder, rode through the sky in his chariot, pulled by 2 goats.
We have so many favourite traditions and customs to thank our Viking ancestors for.
What are Brunkager?
Brunkage translates to brown cookies, which by the color that's a very suiting name. This recipe has been adapted from the original ones I've seen to make these a little healthier. I enjoyed a version of these just yesterday with friends while they decorated their tree, a Danish family tradition of theirs that I truly enjoyed. Theses crispy cookies I would enjoy year round.