Traditions, pudding and white beards

Reading time: 2 minutes

Christmas is celebrated in lots of countries and yet differently in each one. In Denmark, for example, they have a particularly lovely tradition for children. Danish Christmas rice pudding, or Risengrød as it’s known, is served every year at Christmas time. It is customary to hide a whole almond in the pudding and the person that finds it gets a small present. But it is not just people that should enjoy this sweet delicacy. A bowl should be put out for the Nisse too. But why and what exactly are Nisse?

So much tradition in a pot of pudding

Nisse are hardworking little elves that help Santa Claus and live in attics or barns. They protect people’s houses and farms and look after pets. To say thank you, at Christmas a fresh bowl of Risengrød with added cinnamon and almonds is placed on the doorstep for the Nisse to secretly collect. But beware if something goes wrong with the Christmas rice pudding. Then they wreak havoc, play tricks or even leave. But don’t worry! The Nisse never get really mad, that’s just not in their nature. The word «Nisse» is derived from the name Niels, the Danish form of Nicholas. They resemble an old man with a white beard, are about the size of a 10 year old child and wear red caps on their heads. Like garden gnomes? Sort of. But more Nordic.


Johan Thomas Lundbye, 1845

Good and not so good Nisse

There are different kinds of Nisse. The Nisse we have already mentioned is a so-called Gårdnisse, a farm elf. Kirchennisse, also known as Kirkenisse, live in churches and keep them clean and tidy. But there are others that are not so friendly and helpful. The elf known as the Sætternisse is responsible for creating disorder in books and newspapers. They cause printing errors so skillful that they aren’t noticed during proofreading. The youngest and newest type is the Skovnisse, the forest elf. He lives outdoors and leaves mystical tracks in his wake.

Let yourself be charmed by this tradition

Who knows, maybe we all have little housemates that take care of the tidying and enjoy Christmas rice pudding? So why not put a small bowl of Christmas rice pudding by your front door this year and keep your eyes peeled? Perhaps an elf with a big red pointed cap will scurry past and grab the dessert.

Here you’ll find the traditional recipe for the Danish delicacy.


We really hope you enjoy making it. Happy holidays!

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