Rice Pudding for Elves

The following conversation is transcribed from a conversation between me (HS) and my friend/informant (AB).

HS: So can you tell me a little bit about the special form of rice pudding that you leave out on Christmas eve?

AB: Yeah, so it’s a tradition that has been in my family for as long as I can remember. The technical term for it is Risengrød, and it is made by boiling rice and milk at a low temperature for a few hours and then you serve it with some cinnamon sugar and butter. It’s supposed to be the food of Santa’s elves and we eat it on Christmas Eve. And then on Christmas day, we have a version without cinnamon called Risalamande. It’s also a little more watery and you put cherry juice on top of it. Leaving out Risengrød for elves is basically the Danish version of leaving out cookies and milk to Santa.


My informant is one of my friends from high school. He immigrated to the United States from Denmark when he was 15 and still carries on many aspects of his Danish culture. He is fluent in Danish and English.


I was at my informant’s house with him, his sister, and his parents. They were happy to elaborate on some of their Danish traditions.


I enjoyed getting to learn about the parallels between Danish and American culture. I thought that leaving cookies out for Santa was a tradition unique to the United States, and I believe it is, but it seems to be derived directly from Danish culture. This is just another example of how broad trends show themselves all throughout the realm of folklore, just with smaller, more nuanced iterations that reflect regional and cultural context.

For another version of the Risengrød tradition, see:

“A DANISH CHRISTMAS.” Scandinavian Press, vol. 15, no. 1, Scandinavian Press, 2008, p. 17–.