Discover the secret to an elegantly pared-back, sustainable and celebratory Scandi-inspired Christmas, in this extract from interior designer Katrine Martensen-Larsen’s new book, The Christmas Season: Created by Scandinavian Artists
JEWELLER AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR CHARLOTTE LYNGGAARD’S CHRISTMAS TABLE, FEATURING A TRADITIONAL PORCELAIN DINING SET AND COLOURED WATER TUMBLERS, FORAGED GREENERY AND HAND-CUT NAPKIN TIES. IMAGE: MIKKEL ADSBØL
Christmas is without a doubt the highlight of the year in Scandinavia. This festive part of the winter season is thoroughly celebrated, gathering friends and family alike on numerous occasions. We are already in a Christmas frame of mind from the first Sunday of Advent, often in late November. Some of us start even earlier, simply because we can’t wait. Almost everything symbolises Christmas until it culminates on Christmas Eve (juleaften). This not only applies to us Danes, but certainly also to our Scandinavian neighbours in Sweden and Norway.
Christmas parties (julefester) are held throughout the month. More often, the ones before the 24th are with friends and colleagues, and those just after – on Christmas and Boxing Day – are typically reserved for the immediate family. During all the Christmas festivities in our respective circles, we bake biscuits, gingerbread houses, Lucia rolls, drink mulled wine and eat nuts, marzipan and mandarins.
On Christmas Eve we unashamedly stuff ourselves! We roast a bird of some sort – whether it be duck, goose or turkey – as well as pork, with gravy, and side dishes of potatoes and red cabbage. Dessert tends to be rice pudding or ris à l’amande, with the added excitement of whoever finds the whole almond receiving this year’s almond gift (mandelgave). After dinner, we dance around the Christmas tree and sing Christmas carols. It is only then that we settle down to hand out gifts while dishes of confectionery are passed around. The days that follow traditionally include meals of herring, ham, special sausages, roast pork and jellied meats, washed down with plenty of beer and snaps.
(LEFT) FESTIVE TOUCHES AT THE SELF-BUILT COUNTRY HOME OF STYLIST, PRODUCT DESIGNER AND BOUTIQUE OWNER METTE BECK ADSBØL IN DENMARK; (RIGHT) THE CHRISTMAS TREE IS AT THE CENTRE OF FESTIVE TRADITIONS IN THE DANISH HOME OF DESIGNER AND ENTREPRENEUR NADIA LASSEN. IMAGES: MIKKEL ADSBØL
The Decorated Christmas Tree
Some of us go all in with Christmas decorations from the first Sunday of Advent. Others decorate gradually, so that more and more indoor and outdoor decorations sneak in throughout the Christmas period. Lights, stars, wreaths, angels, ribbons, pinecones and flowers, and to top it all, the Christmas tree in all its ornamental glory.
There are as many ways to decorate for Christmas as there are people. Not one way is better than another. It may possibly be said however, that some ways are more tasteful than others. Some go all in to create elaborate nativity landscapes, creating Christmas hearts and making garlands in all colours of the rainbow. Other decorating styles are less over the top and more underplayed. Our book focuses on the latter.
Let it be said right away, you can easily create an elegant decorative home for Christmas without breaking the bank. There is no need to buy expensive ornaments or visit exclusive florists – or even, as some do – hire a professional to create it. Our aim with this book is to show how beautiful fewer, but quality, Christmas decorations, in a wonderful mix of old and new, inherited, eclectic, bought and homemade.
(LEFT) FESTIVE DECORATIONS AT THE ONE-ROOM APARTMENT OF FLOWER ARTIST, DECORATOR AND STYLIST LIEF SIGERSEN IN COPENHAGEN; (RIGHT) A FESTIVE WELCOME AT THE HOME OF ARTIST AND BOUTIQUE OWNER CATHRINE BORGE IN OSLO. IMAGES: MIKKEL ADSBØL
A Sustainable Christmas
We are well aware that this season especially encourages massive overuse, especially in our part of the world. Thinking sustainably at Christmas is therefore something we are mindful of. We are not advocates of the “buy and throw away principle”, whether with Christmas decorations or interior designing.
Bringing Christmas decorations out from storage year after year helps make the holiday season something special. It creates joy for one’s self, and certainly also for one’s loved ones – especially the little ones. I fondly remember the ornaments my grandmother, grandfather and parents hung on the tree when I was little. I have vivid memories of a small green trumpet and a glass gun filled with pastel coloured sugar pellets. Not to mention my mother hanging socks on my and my little brother’s bedroom doors, filled daily with a small gift for each of us, from the 1st to the 24th December.
THE COVERED PORCH (LEFT) AND DINING TABLE (RIGHT) DECKED OUT FOR CHRISTMAS, AT THE HOME OF JEWELLER AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR CHARLOTTE LYNGGAARD NEAR COPENHAGEN. IMAGES: MIKKEL ADSBØL
A clear recollection is the first Christmas I hosted. My mother lent me her box of Christmas decorations. As I was decorating the tree, I was startled to find that the lametta (ornamental tinsel threads that reflect when the tree is lit) was completely mouldy. Quickly discarded, I then got on with the task of decorating.
My mother arrived that Christmas Eve afternoon and saw our finely decorated tree. It didn’t take long before she pointed out that I had forgotten the lametta. I explained that it had become dank, and that I had thrown it away. She promptly burst into tears. What I thought was mould was in fact lead.
You see, the lametta was a treasured possession. It had been passed down to her by her beloved grandmother. Quite simply, it was irreplaceable. Its lead may have appeared slightly dank, but was designed that way so that it could drape heavily and beautifully over the fir tree branches. Alas, this sort of misunderstanding does happen, and it honestly isn’t Christmas unless we revisit the episode. I just have to grin and bear it!
(LEFT) PAIRED BACK FESTIVE DETAILS IN THE HOME OF DESIGNER AND ENTREPRENEUR NADIA LASSEN IN DENMARK; (RIGHT) METTE BECK ADSBØL USES DRIED FLOWERS, FABRIC REMNANTS AND HANDMADE BRASS STARS TO DECORATE HER CHRISTMAS GIFTS. IMAGES: MIKKEL ADSBØL
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