Julemanden: Denmark’s Very Own Christmas Man

In Greenland, there lives a man known as the Julemanden who gives gifts to the children of Denmark every December 24. He is especially fond of risengrod, a native delicacy which is essentially rice pudding with cinnamon sugar and with a slice of butter. He is also assisted by nisse, the Danish counterpart of elves…so goes the story from a Danish folklore. 

Julemanden is roughly translated as the Yule Man or the Christmas Man. His story became popular only after World War II. The influence drawn from the American Santa is quite evident although its image became nearer to the qualities of Father Christmas through time. The character is tied to the very roots of Danish folklore and mythology.

For all intents and purposes, the Julemanden looks like Santa Claus or Father Christmas and so we have to ask why a different name was chosen. When countries adopt a practice of another, they usually try to make them their own starting from the name. That is exactly how traditions are formed – by creating some new ideas or by adopting an existing one and modifying them to agree with cultural beliefs and practices.

Visiting houses to bring gifts  is also being done by Julemanden but he does one thing which the American Santa doesn’t . This is the practice of leaving a garland of Danish flags to the fir tree of every home. He also plays the band and sings Christmas songs with the crowd. Now, the American Santa isn’t exactly known for these and  the Julemanden certainly comes on its own because of its adherence to Danish identity.

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