Like most countries, Denmark too has its own gift-bearing figure, known as Julemanden. The legend of Saint Nicholas spread far and wide across several countries. In Denmark also, St. Nicholas was very popular, even though the people were forbidden to believe in saints. However, the new Lutheran Church could not extirpate this famous figure from the minds of the Danish people. For this reason, they introduced a figure, similar to St. Nicholas, but without the bishop hat. 'Jul' means the coming of winter and it also means Christmas and Julemanden literally means, 'Christmas Man'. It is believed that every year, during the month of December, Julemanden brings gifts for children, and entertains and plays tricks with them as well. Christmas traditions in Denmark are closely linked to pagan customs of the winter solstice. Of all the Christmas traditions in Denmark, making paper ornament is considered as the most important custom. According to the legend, when Julemanden decorates the little fir tree with a garland, decked with Danish flags, the elves dance around the tree, singing Christmas carols. To learn more about this legendary gift bearer of Denmark, scroll down.
The tradition of Julemanden originated sometime after the World War II. There was a popular character called, 'Nissefar' or 'Julenissen', which closely resembles the modern Julemanden. Earlier, people used to believe in 'Nisser', a fickle minded creature who was believed to bring both misery and good fortune to the people. Nisser is depicted as a small dwarf. On the other hand, Julenissen, also a mythical character just like Nisser, brought only prosperity and good luck to a family. However it was said that the family would receive good fortunes if they fed porridge to the Julenissen. Later, Danish people introduced their own Father Christmas, Julmanden, who had similarities with Nisser and Santa. According to the Danish beliefs, Julemanden on his rounds during Christmas is always assisted by Nisse, the Danish version of elves. Julenissen is still celebrated in Denmark during December and he acts as a stand-in for "Julemanden".
The Danish people's Santa Claus, Julemanden, appears exactly like the western Santa Claus. He is depicted as an old man with a kind face, white hair, a long white beard and a bulging belly. He wears a robe in red and white and carries a knapsack on his back, packed with gifts for children. Julemanden is believed to be always accompanied by Nisser or elves, who are his helpers. He arrives in a sleigh drawn by reindeers.