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Christmas Risengrød

This Danish rice pudding appeases wicked elves.

In Denmark, the tradition of eating rice pudding, or risengrød, on Christmas starts with a mischievous elf.

In many European countries, traditions around Christmastime feature magical creatures who are slightly less benevolent than the American version of Santa and his elves. Many of these sprites, in fact, are trying to steal or otherwise make trouble for people.

Danish folklore features a gnome or elf-like creature known as the nisse, who lives in barns and becomes particularly active during the Christmas season. If treated well, the nisse can be helpful, but if treated badly, he may retaliate by stealing small items or harming livestock. So, in the Christmas spirit, Danish families would leave out a helping of rice pudding for the nisse.

Now, fewer people are worried about the health of their sheep or cows, but the tradition of eating risengrød on Christmas Eve continues. In recent decades, it’s been gussied up with cherry sauce and turned into a game of sorts. One whole almond is hidden in the pudding, and everyone has to keep eating until the nut is found. But, if someone finds the almond, they might sneak it back into the pudding, to prolong the game, until there’s so little pudding left the almond can no longer be concealed.

Need to Know

Risengrød is typically made in one's home, so you might not find it in Danish restaurants. There are, however, plenty of recipes online so you can make some yourself.

Where to Try It
Contributed by
Sarah Laskow
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