The traditions and the food and the celebrations go on for dayyyys! I'll tell you all about my Copenhagen Christmas.
Christmas is a 4-day long event over here. There's "Lille Juleaften" (aka "Little Christmas Eve" aka Christmas Eve Eve aka December 23rd) and then Juelaften (Christmas Eve- the main event!) and then Juledag, and then Anden Juledag (Christmas Day and second Christmas day).
I was so lucky to spend Lille Juleaften with 5 other missionaries, two senior couples, the Copenhagen temple president and his wife, and two very sweet Danes. I'm pretty sure we exceeded the tiny apartments maximum capacity... but that just made it all the more cozy. We crammed around a beautifully decorated candlelit table and feasted on "risalemande" (delicious rice pudding). The December 23rd tradition is a MASSIVE amount of rice pudding for dinner. And somewhere in the heaping bowl of pudding there is one perfectly whole almond... Whoever finds the almond has to hide it- in their mouth or in their lap or in their napkin- and keep it a secret until ALL the food is gone. So everybody stuffs their faces in hopes of finding the almond! And then once the massive bowl is licked clean, the lucky winner reveals the perfect almond and trades it in for the coveted gift!
I'm totally taking this fun tradition home with me.
The rest of the evening was spent singing Christmas songs, playing the Danish version of white elephant, and enjoying the company of so many wonderful people. I went to bed that night feeling so so blessed.
Then comes December 24th! The best day of the year.
We went to a Danish folk church Christmas service with the rest of the country (Christmas Eve is the one day of the whole year when the Danes like to be religious). I felt like I was in a medieval movie inside the ancient church with the priest and the choir. It was a beautiful service and an incredible cultural experience.
After church we spent the evening with the most adorable Danish family in their picture perfect Danish home. We made marzipan pigs and other candies and treats while the feast was being prepared.
Check out this beautiful plate...
BEST FOOD OF MY LIFE.
Flæskesteg (pork meat with the pig's skin still on...) and Duck with potatoes is the traditional Christmas feast.
and it was to DIE for.
My favorite part of the evening was when we got to light the Christmas tree with REAL candles. Then everybody holds hands in a big circle and dances around the Christmas tree while singing Christmas songs!
Dr. Seuss must have been inspired by the Danes.
At the last song, we leave the tree and dance through every corner of every room of the whole house- still holding hands and singing away. Our parade of 12 people was led up and down stairs and over all the furniture and even into the laundry room and tiny bathroom.
By this point my face HURT from smiling so much.
There's no waiting til Christmas morning over here.... in Denmark you open all your presents on Christmas Eve! The night never ever ends. I was so thankful to spend Christmas with such a sweet family. It was so fun to experience all of the special Danish traditions.
When Sister Hale and I got home that night it was time to celebrate American style! We left cookies and milk out for Santa and opened our Christmas PJ's, and then read the Bible story by candlelight before falling into bed with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads.
As I was sitting there in my little Copenhagen apartment with just my companion who was a stranger to me a week ago, I'd never felt so far from home. It was my first Christmas ever being away from my family.... I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sad! But I realized that I was the best kind of alone I could possibly be. And really that I wasn't alone at all. It was one of those moments where I felt "encircled about in the arms of His love."
The Lord really does take care of His missionaries.
On Christmas morning Sister Hale and I sprung out of bed and tore the sparkling paper off of the wonderful gifts from our families back home and our Danish families here. Thanks for everything everybody! It was a wonderful Christmas.
Later that evening I got to take a trip home for a few hours! BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT EVERRRRR.
Seriously, how cool is it that I could spend time with my family from clear across the globe?
It was SO wonderful to see the faces and hear the voices of the people I love and miss more than anything in the world.
But even better than all of the exciting Danish traditions and all of the delicious food and the wonderful gifts and the lights and the trees and the Christmas magic were all of the experiences we had in between it all.
Especially on December 25th.
It was hands down the BEST day of my whole mission.
Possibly the best day of my whole life...
It all started a couple weeks ago... President Sederholm told all of us missionaries that He wanted us to work on Christmas. He wanted us to find time between the celebrations to get out and do missionary work. He gave us a lot of different ideas- like caroling, visiting part member or less active families, visiting widows, hospitals or care centers, finding some kind of service project, or even just knocking doors.
I had a really strong feeling that I needed to be in a hospital on Christmas day. So when the APs invited us to go caroling at the hospital with them on December 25th, I was sooo excited.
Sister Hale and I brought our guitars and we all put on our Christmas sweaters and we went to the hospital in hopes of comforting and cheering and brightening someone's Christmas.
First we decided to visit the sick friend of someone in our ward. And as the 6 of us missionaries stood gathered in this little hospital room on Christmas morning, I felt closer to the Savior than I ever have in my life.
I heard Christ's voice as I listened to the elders comfort this sick and lonely woman.
I saw Christ's countenance shining through the smile on my companion's face.
And I felt Christ's love surrounding us all and filling the room.
It was tangible.
And it only increased as the day went on...
As we left that hospital room with overfull hearts, one of the nurses came to see who we were and what we were all doing there on Christmas day. We told her that we had come to sing and visit people, and she thought that was so wonderful. She asked us if we would surprise her colleagues and sing for them as a Christmas gift from her. We said we'd love to! So she asked us to meet her in 30 minutes after she was finished taking blood tests.
So we had 30 minutes to kill...
Someone had a prompting to go down tho the hospital's waiting room. There we found two sad women sitting on the hard waiting room chairs. We asked if we could sing them a Christmas song. As we sang to them about Christ's birth and life and light and love, smiles appeared on their sorrowful faces. They even began to sing along.
We later found out that this woman's husband had just passed away. On Christmas day.
When we saw the two women leaving the hospital, my companion and I sprinted after them out to the parking lot where we hugged the two strangers and testified to them of Christ's love. The knowledge of resurrection, forever families, and eternal life has never been so precious to me as it was in that fleeting moment, when I saw it bring a flicker of hope into their tired, tear-stained eyes.
Then it was time to meet back up with that nurse we had met. As we followed her through the maze of white hospital corridors I took the chance to get to know this sweet woman a little bit. She was from Brazil and moved here to Denmark several years ago with her 7 year old daughter. She was so curious and excited and interested about us American missionaries singing Danish songs about Jesus Christ in a hospital on Christmas day! We basically had a little concert for a big group of her coworkers in their break room. They were all taking pictures and videos of us the whole time and thought it was the greatest thing ever. And the "happily ever after" to this story came when the Brazilian nurse told us she would LOVE to meet with us and learn more about our church. We have an appointment with her this week!!!!
The rest of the afternoon was spent caroling through the halls of the hospital and visiting lonely elderly people in a care center.
Never in my life have I felt so at peace and so content with the world and my place in it. Never in my life have I felt so full of pure joy and the love of God.
Now Christmas is over... I'm going to miss all the glittering lights and sparkling trees and the hustle and bustle on the streets. I'm going to miss the Christmas spirit that warmed the cold winter air. I'm going to miss saying "glæadelig jul!" to everyone I ever saw and I'm going to miss their smiles in return. This Christmas has been SO special.
I will never forget my Copenhagen Christmas!
I'll never forget the Christmas I spent dancing around Christmas trees burning with real flickering candles.
I'll never forget the Christmas I spent around hospital beds.
I'll never forget the Christmas I spent so far away from home; The Christmas I spent so close to Heaven.
I'll never forget the Christmas I spent with my special black name tag shining on my chest.
I'll never forget this Christmas....
The Christmas I spent with Christ.
I hope your Christmas was just as wonderful and warm and bright.
Can you believe 2013 is coming to a close?!
It's been the BEST year of my life. I'm so thankful for every single day... For the challenges I've faced and the blessings I've been given and the experiences I've had and the memories I've made.
Take some time to reflect on your 2013.... What have you accomplished? What are you thankful for? What do you hope to do better? Now lets make 2014 a year to remember! Make a few goals. Write them down.
This new year, lets strengthen our testimonies. Lets share our testimonies. Lets live our testimonies.
"And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever."
Thank you SO much for your love and support and prayers. I love you all and pray for you everyday!
Have a safe and happy New Years!
Søster Breanna Michele Rogers
anden Juledag SUSHI
Christmas eve p.j.'s with sister Hale