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Christmas Decorating the Danish Way

For many international students, it isn’t possible to go home for the holidays. Instead, we must find ways to bring the holiday cheer to our homes here. Luckily, decorating for Christmas is one of the main events during the holidays around here. I’m going to walk you through my favorite ways to bring holiday cheer into my home away from home.

The Woven Danish Heart

When my parents came to visit this past month, my mom fell in LOVE with these hearts and made a bunch to decorate the walls of our apartment. Supposedly, the original julehjerte was designed by non-other than Hans Christian Andersen himself! If you visit the HC Andersen Museum in Odense, you can find the oldest known heart displayed which dates back to the 1860s. This is a very popular craft for families to do together during the holiday season. It’s simple, kid-friendly, and very colorful! We used patterned paper to make ours and they really are a festive touch to our otherwise very white walls. The hearts are made from to different-colored pieces of felt, fabric, or paper and are woven together to create a heart with a pocket in the middle which you can fill with candy, springs of pine, or other fun (and lightweight) goodies. You can even add string and hang them on your Christmas tree!

Advent Candles

When you walk around the city during the month of December, chances are you’ll spot a candle with numbers on it burning in the windows of many shops and homes. Thes advent candles are tall and have the numbers 1 through 24 written on the sides. Each day of December you are meant to light the candle and let it burn until it reaches the next number. Then you put it out and wait until the next day to light it again! By the time the candle reaches its final number it will be Juleaften (Christmas Eve) and the countdown to the festivities has ended! Because candles are so warming, this is a great way to incorporate a Christmas into your home while also making it all hygge for the wintertime.


Have you ever heard of “Elf on a Shelf?” If you have then this decoration will sound very familiar to you. Essentially, Nisse are mischievous little elves that inhabit your home during Christmas and enjoy making messes and pulling pranks. If there are kids in the home, these Nisse like to leave them little presents here and there as well. Historically, Nisse were protectors of the household and only caused trouble when angered. To keep them happy, on Christmas Eve it was tradition to make a bowl of risengrød (rice porridge with butter) similar to leaving cookies out for Santa. I’m not sure if families still follow that tradition as much today, but it makes a fun little decoration to sit on your shelves or hide elsewhere in your home.

Christmas Tree

For those who celebrate Christmas, a home is not complete without the Christmas tree. Traditionally, Danish Christmas trees are quite simple, decorated with homemade ornaments such as the julehjerte and real candles (yes, with real flames!) that truly embody the essence of julehygge. However, as students it may not be feasible to fit a real tree in our small living quarters. This means we must be a little creative. For my home, we have a small wooden tree that we found at Flying Tiger and decorated it will a string of lights and a small wooden red piano music box my father found and fell in love with. It’s not big and definitely not real, but as it sits in our window and glows in the darkness, it absolutely brings the Christmas spirit to our home.

Being away from our loved ones during the holidays can be tough and there’s nothing that can fully replace that sense of celebrating in our home countries. However, we can still find the joy, warmth, and comfort of Christmas if we try. If you’re struggling to make your home festive this time of year, try adding one or all of these Danish traditional decorations and I promise it’ll bring the Christmas cheer many of us are longing for.