Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

The non-drinkers’s guide to Danish Christmas parties

If you enjoy getting very drunk at Christmas parties, so drunk you can barely find your way home, you will fit in well at the traditional Danish Christmas party.

Alcohol is the blood that flows through Danish Christmas parties, and flows and flows. An evening will probably start off with cocktails – or perhaps some gløgg, hot spiced wine with brandy – then move into plenty of wine with dinner.

After dinner there will be beer, and more wine, and perhaps some more cocktails in between turns on the dance floor.

Even corporate employee Christmas parties are sometimes so wild and soused that people forget themselves with their colleagues and end up in trouble with their partner at home.

So what do you do if you’re invited to a Danish Christmas party and you’re a non-drinker?

Five glasses of wine at a business dinner

If you don’t drink at all for religious or personal reasons, the holiday Christmas season can be a challenge for you.

In fact, if you’re a light drinker, a one glass of wine type girl as I am, the Danish Christmas season can also be a challenge.

Being a light drinker is actually a challenge all year round. When I’m invited to a nice dinner with a business group, the server also often places one glass of lovely and expensive wine in front of me…for each course.

I take a sip or two of each, to taste them and to be polite, and when the dinner is done, I’m sitting there with five costly, barely touched glasses of wine.

Now, if you do drink your wine, the server will come by to refill your glass, so you can never tell how much you’ve had.

Of course, you can tell each server not to do refills, or you could make it clear to each server that you don’t want yet another glass of their wine, but this can be distracting and rather alienating for the businesspeople next to you who you are supposed to be buttering up.

They’re enjoying their five glasses of wine. Why aren’t you?

Dinner party at a private home

I haven’t quite figured out the formula for business dining yet, but when you are invited to a dinner party at a private home, I think the best approach is to bring along a festive-looking non-alcoholic drink with you.

Danish hosts are getting better at providing non-alcoholic options, but it’s often something pretty pedestrian, like a Pepsi, and you’ll have to spend the night fending off questions about why you’re not drinking.

If you’re a woman under 45, that may include questions about when the baby is due.

Bring along something festive

So I recommend bringing along a joyful-looking special occasion drink, so you don’t look like a party pooper. Something with pretty colors or bubbles.

Sparkling apple cider, which comes in a champagne-like bottle, is something everyone can drink and it looks like a party. Pour it in a champagne glass, really, nobody can see the difference.

You can also along a bottle of non-alcoholic wine and give it to your host alongside, or in place of, a traditional bottle of wine.

There are also lots of good non-alcoholic beers available these days, and even non-alcoholic gin and non-alcoholic rum.

Sparkling apple cider is great

If you’re the host of the party, it’s a great idea to offer a pitcher of virgin cocktails, something colorful and happy.

And if you’re serving gløgg, the classic holiday drink of hot spiced wine, I recommend doing a separate pot on the stove of hot spiced apple cider. This is fabulous with a cinnamon stick, and everybody can drink it and feel like they’re part of the festivities.

Being together is one of the most important parts of the holiday season in Denmark.

Food is also important, traditional holiday food. Traditional holiday crafts are important, like the paper braided hearts you’ll often see hung on Christmas trees.

And traditional holiday drinking is important. Whether or not you drink yourself, during the Danish Christmas season, you will be surrounded by plenty of alcohol.

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