I am proud of my Danish heritage, and now that I’ve moved to Seattle, I have a unique opportunity to learn more about it, and add more Danish traditions into my life. Seattle has a very big Nordic community, and even a Nordic Heritage Museum that has a Yulefest every year on the weekend before Thanksgiving.
I’ve decided to make Yulefest my new holiday tradition. I’ve done it two years running so far, and it always brings me back to my youth and memories of my grandmother. The food, the music, the decorations all cause a great deal of nostalgia in me. I really enjoy that feeling.
It was at Yulefest that I discovered a Danish tradition that I’d never heard of before: Juleneg, which means Christmas Sheaf. (In Norway it’s called Julenek, and in Sweden it’s Julkarve.) I suspect that this tradition dates back long before Christmas existed, as it’s rooted deeply in the rural farming communities of Scandanavia. It’s one of those rituals that relates to farming and good luck and abundant crops.
Throughout the region, on Christmas Eve at sundown (which is very close to the winter solstice, it must be pointed out), people will put out their last sheaf of grain from their harvest to feed the birds. It’s believed that taking care of the animals and spirits during the coldest, darkest days of winter will cause good luck and a bountiful harvest the following summer.
The Juleneg can be tied to pillars or fence posts, or hung in trees. It is said to be especially lucky if the birds flock to them even as you’re putting them up. I find this a delightful tradition, and hope to carry it on for years to come.
Happy holidays to all, no matter what your heritage may be. Peace on earth. Good will toward Men.