Danish Christmas Game

“Then there is the almond gift game,

After we eat our Christmas dinner we usually eat a form of porridge with cherry sauce, it has bits of almonds in it, and only one whole almond in it. Whoever finds the whole almond when eating it, wins a present, which has been bought for the sole purpose of this game. Again I learnt it from my parents/family. I like it because it’s exciting to be eating and poof you find the almond! (Though my sister Nina always gets it…)It means a lot to me, because it’s part of a traditional Danish Christmas dinner, and I just love Danish tradition.”

Eva does not recall the first time she first participated in this food activity, but she says she believes she’s done it every year since birth. Eva spent most of her life in Rome, Italy, but she says that she spends every Christmas with Danish relatives and so the Danish traditions had been embraced in her home even though the family was in Italy. She believes the purpose of the game is solely another embracement of the holiday tradition of giving gifts during Christmas time.  She pondered if perhaps the reason was to keep the kids interested throughout the meal in order to have a stronger familial environment. However, she is not sure and so she just looks at it as a fond experience from her childhood that continues every year.

When I went to visit Eva and her family in Italy this year, it was during my winter break and so I was lucky enough to spend Christmas break and learn all of these traditions. This tradition came up during a conversation about our anticipation of Christmas day with the Danish relatives who had also come to visit. My interpretation of the game comes out of my own family’s tradition (and Jewish tradition in general) to play the game of the Afficoman, which happens in Passover. In this game a piece of Matzah (flattened bread that is specific for Passover) is hidden and at the end of the night the kids are all sent to look for it and whoever finds it wins a present. Since most Jewish traditions during Passover are related back to the Jewish people finding faith in God and being saved, I see the tradition of the almonds as one of finding yourself as a whole, perhaps through Christ seeing as it is a Christmas day tradition.