'Julenisser', pixies with a red hat bringing in the Xmas presents are the most commercialized figures in Scandinavian folklore. Whether you like them or not, this time of the year you'll run into them everywhere: in shopwindows, on napkins, wrapping paper, greeting cards, or in your daily newspaper. No Danish Christmas without them, but where did they come from?
Certainly not from the North Pole, with Father Christmas. Father Christmas and the Xmas pixies first struck a deal around the end of the 19th century, when Father Christmas himself came to Denmark from Germany via Xmas postcards and Xmas books.
The believe in a little guy living in your house or stable is much older and probably started already in Roman times. The Romans worshipped small housegods which had to be looked after well.
In 981 the Olav Trygvesson Saga in Iceland tells us of an old man that always gets help from the small people living near his house. These small people preferably lived in a big stone.
In Scotland they lived in your house and people went to no extend attracting a 'bogle' if their house lacked one.
Similar stories are known from all over northern Europe.
By the 16th century the pixies in Sweden and Finnmarken had moved into the stables, taking care of the farm animals and they would even go out stealing from other farms, if their own farm did not have food enough for their animals. And who did not grow up with Astrid Lindgrens story about Tomte, the friendly little pixie looking after all the animals on the farm, even sharing his own porridge with a hungry fox.
This porridge is an essentiel element in all those stories: you should never forget to put out a bowl of porridge for your pixie, and on Christmas eve this should be porridge cooked with milk, and with a big lump of butter. If you forget, the pixie will not remain on friendly terms and might even move out.
Rice pudding is still the traditional Danish dessert at Christmas.
And now of course you ask me if we at Vestervang, Bøjdencottage, have such a pixie as well.
Well, it is not that I have seen one, but there maybe something to it. So, yes, I will put out a bowl with rice pudding on Christmas eve.
Danish Rice Pudding serves 4
2,5 dl water
190 gr pudding rice
1 liter full cream milk
half a teaspoon of salt
Bring the water to the boil and add the rice. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the milk. Bring to the boil again and simmer over a low heat for 35-40 minutes.
Serve with sugar, cinnamon and a big lump of butter
You can add one almond, the person that finds the almond on his plate, gets an extra present.