If Esbjerg is anything to go by, Christmas is popular in Denmark.
There have been some obvious clues such as the Christmas tree farms that I have driven past on the way to and from the airport so many times. There by the road are fields full of conical conifers about three to four feet tall, tagged and clearly growing for market. In the last week or so some have been harvested and were lying stacked with the same sort of white netting round them that the tree sellers back home are using.
An other hint was “J day” that occurs on a certain Friday in November. The J is short for “julebryg” which translates as Christmas beer. On that Friday the big Danish brewers such as Carlsberg and Tuborg launch their Christmas beer for the season: a darker, spicier and stronger beer than their usual lager. The event allegedly includes free beer in certain bars although that would appear to be more common in Copenhagen than in Esbjerg.
The Thursday immediately prior to J day has become a J day for the micro-breweries. No free beer on offer but a bar in Esbjerg offered an intriguing sampler board where you could have four glasses of approximately a third of a pint of four of the brews. They ranged from red ale to stout, were invariably very strong but tasted rather good.
Beyond beer Esbjerg offers some attractive Christmas lights in the city centre streets and a huge ice rink filling most of the city square. I have not dared to inquire after the requirements or prices to use the rink but it gets plenty of use from other people – more than I have seen in town for a long time.
On a rare visit to the new Broen shopping mall this evening I also saw a Santa. Not the rounding, aging fellow tucked away in a grotto as per English memories but a young, slim chap (still with white whiskers attached) sitting in a bright open space. Alas, he received no visitors that I could see.
The relative calm and quiet of Esbjerg appeals to my sense of ‘Christmas’. I can walk along admiring the lights and the decorations and appreciate the effort with a sense of “peace and goodwill”. Conversely the bustling streets of my hometown felt far more hustled and hassled last weekend.
One thing Esbjerg can not offer me for Christmas is my family. In that regard I will happily bid the city farewell on Friday and return to England to be reunited with them for the holiday period.
Season’s greetings to all.