When I first committed to studying abroad for the fall semester, there were only a few things that I was anxious about. I would say that most students are nervous about traveling alone, making new friends, and having to get accustomed to a completely new culture; I on the other hand was a little anxious about missing the holiday season that I enjoy spending at home with my family each year. Rather than thinking about the new traditions that I would learn, I was dwelling on missing out on cookie-baking, shopping and wrapping, buying a Christmas tree, and decorating my house. Little did I know, experiencing a holiday in a different place, through the lenses of a different culture, can be just as fulfilling as spending the holiday season at home.
It was in early November when the first signs of Christmas appeared in Copenhagen. My friends and I had heard about a celebration called “J-Dag,” or “J-Day,” when translated into English, that is apparently big there, and of course, we didn’t want to miss out. So I did some research: J Dag always falls on the first Friday of November and is when the Carlsberg Group’s Christmas beer, Tuborg Julebrryg, is brewed and launched to the public for the first time each year. I read that in order to see the celebration we needed to be in the city at 9pm.
When J-Dag came, my friends and I went straight to the familiar bars that we had been going to all semester. But that night, they were different. The bars were decorated for Christmas with lights, trees, ornaments, and fake snow around them. Snow machines filled the streets, so although it wasn’t cold enough for snow, it appeared to be snowing. At around 9pm, trucks and horse-carriages arrived with men and women dressed up in blue, which is the color of Christmas in Denmark (due to the Christmas beer having a blue label). The workers sang, danced, gave out blue Christmas hats, and brought the Christmas beer into each bar, not only into the bars on the street that we were on, but throughout the entire city center. Christmas music was playing in the streets and in each bar, and although it was only the 8th of November, the Christmas spirit was well in the air.
Melissa Lawrence, a Binghamton University undergraduate student and the Study Abroad Ambassador Program manager