While we haven’t yet had Thanksgiving (in either the United States or Denmark – more on that in a second), it is now definitely Christmas season here in this little Nordic country. To the Danes, Christmas is almost entirely a secular holiday, called jul, which is where we get the word ‘yuletide’ (juletide), but not pronounced quite the same as in English. Some of the city bars have been decorated with garlands and fake snow for a few weeks now, and the presence of lights and pine bough-like decorations is growing. The Christmas markets have opened in various city squares and Tivoli, Copenhagen’s big amusement park, is all lit up.
I have a plane ticket back to Minnesota for twenty-one days from now. My Danish residence permit expires on Christmas day. The weather forecast is predicting snow today and tomorrow. Time here is running out. I suppose this is the time to start asking myself what other things I want to do, what else I want to see in my last three weeks, and whether or not I’ve gotten out of this experience what I wanted.
I’d like to think I have; I know how to get around and function in this society (don’t talk to people on the bus/train, check twice before you cross the street so the bikers don’t get you), I can have brief exchanges entirely in Danish (this is especially easy at the grocery store, where the amount of money you owe is displayed on a screen and you can just say tak – thank you – when the cashier hands you your change and receipt), and my body knows to jerk itself awake when the ticket checkers come by on the train asking for passes and travel cards to make sure we’ve all paid for our trip. I know my way around both Hillerød and Copenhagen, and my pronunciation of Danish words and places has improved markedly (though I still can’t say rødgrød med fløde). And I have made some Danish friends that I know I will miss next semester.
Next weekend, the Americans here at Grundtvigs Højskole are preparing a big Thanksgiving dinner for all of our residents. Obviously the Danes don’t do Thanksgiving otherwise, but the Americans that stay here tend to do the meal each year, and we wanted to do that too. We’ll be spending all day in the kitchen, but I think it will pay off. There are whispers of a jul lunch or dinner before we all go our separate ways, and possibly also a Christmas party (one benefit of the Christmas season starting so early – celebrations before the day itself are perfectly acceptable). While we sit down and have meals together three times a day as it is, I like the idea of purposefully gathering everyone on a weekend, when they wouldn’t necessarily be here at school, to spend time together as this semester is ending for all of us.\
It’s the waning number of days that has been keeping me home more so than the increasingly colder and wetter weather. When classes finish every day, I’m on the first possible train home. When I have free days, I contemplate going to the city to explore, but the appeal of a warm fire, tea, and good company has an allure that I can’t really top with wandering around Copenhagen in the cold. I’ve been trying to partake in højskole activities instead of staying holed up in my room watching movies. Two days ago I went with them to see the Danish Symphony, and today Grundtvigs is hosting its own music festival, which I will no doubt spend a good deal of time at (though I should be doing homework, as we’ve reached that point of the semester).
To all of you in the US, enjoy Thanksgiving with whomever you are with. I’m excited to have it with my friends here, in this hyggeligt community.
Fra Hillerød, vi ses! Hav det godt!