What is Julefrokost? Your guide to the incredible Danish Christmas lunch

Julefrokost is one of the most fundamentally hygge parts of the festive season in Denmark. Brimming with friendship, love, sharing, and delicious food, it’s a chance to share amazing meals with the people you care about.

Julefrokost is also a wonderful opportunity to sample some of the best food, drinks, and party games Denmark has to offer.

Denmark, one of the happiest places on earth, really makes the most of the holiday season. After all, winter in Scandinavia can be a depressing affair. The sun starts to set at around 2pm on most days, meaning you get a lot of darkness, and a lot of cold.

Fortunately, a great Julefrokost celebration will leave anyone feeling warm and happy. This is why we’re going to share everything you need to know about celebrating your first Julefrokost event.

What is Julefrokost? Danish Christmas lunch

Julefrokost in English basically means “Christmas lunch”. It’s one of the most anticipated parts of the festive season in Denmark, and it usually takes place on Christmas Eve.

Crucially, it’s worth noting Julefrokost dinners can also take place outside of Christmas, and many families, friends, and even workplaces hold their own Julefrokost buffet in December.

Danes believe Christmas is all about spending time with family and friends in warm places, with plenty of food. During the Julefrokost event, loved ones come together to share a massive buffet full of popular Danish treats, while singing songs and playing party games.

There’s also more than a little drinking at most Julefrokost celebrations, so make sure you have a designated driver to get you home.

While technically, Julefrokost stands for “Christmas lunch”, it’s usually a meal you’ll eat all day — over the course of several hours. There are a host of courses to enjoy, laid out buffet-style so you can take as much as you like.

We’d definitely recommend starting slow and pacing yourself if you’re not used to this kind of Danish celebration.

So, what’s on the Julefrokost menu?

What is served at a traditional Julefrokost?

The food is (unsurprisingly), the most important part of a successful Julefrokost is the food. Don’t worry about eating “too much” at this Danish event. By the time you’re going home, you’re expected to be practically exploding — kind of like an American Thanksgiving.

Many parts of the Julefrokost menu are flexible, based on what your guests enjoy eating.

However, there are some foods you should definitely add to the list, such as:

  • Flæskesteg: The most important part of Julefrokost, this succulent roast pork with a crispy crackling rind is truly decadent. Remember to keep the leftovers for sandwiches on your Christmas day — if you have any.
  • Brunede kartofler: Caramalized potatoes baked in sugar might be the best way to get your kids to eat their veggies. This amazing dish requires only sugar and butter, though some Danes also add a little cream.
  • Rodkal: The standard side dish of the Danish Christmas dinner. Red cabbage goes perfectly with browned potatoes. All you need to do is slice up some cabbage and boil with some sugar and vinegar. You can also add cinnamon and cloves.
  • Leverpostej: Liver pate is a common choice among Danish households for the Christmas dinner. You’ll serve it alongside some rye bread with mushrooms and bacon on top.
  • Gravlaks: A popular Julefrokost food, this is a version of smoked salmon, where you marinate the raw fish in sugar, salt and dill. You’ll also use a special sauce for dipping made with honey, mustard, brown sugar, and crème fresh.
  • Curried meatballs (Boller I Karry): Though a slightly odd meal choice for some non-locals, curried meatballs are a popular favorite at Christmas time. If you don’t like the curry flavor, you can make standard Frikadeller (meatballs) at home.
  • Smorrebrod: A traditional open sandwich which involves piling various foods on top of thick rye bread. You’ll usually see toppings like pickled herring, eggs, shrimp, and countless other foods.
  • Brun sovs: Gravy is a pretty big deal on any Christmas lunch. You’ll usually make it using butter, milk, and flour. Like other gravies from around the world, you can also add the juice from your meats to the sauce.
  • Risalamande: Rice pudding is the dessert of choice for any Danish Christmas dinner. This version is made with cherry sauce, chopped almonds, vanilla, cream, and sugar. Delicious!
  • Cookies like Pebernodder and vaniljekrasner: Danish cookies will often accompany a shot of snaps or some yummy coffee at the end of a meal.

How to tackle the Julefrokost menu

As mentioned above, most of the Julefrokost foods are laid out as a kind of buffet, so you can technically grab the foods you want, whenever you want. However, if you’re going to do Christmas like a real Dane, there is an order to follow.

The Julefrokost menu is more of a multi-course meal, where you’re supposed to start with simple appetizers and soft drinks, and gradually progress to the bigger treats.

Here’s an idea of how you’d tackle the buffet…


Start with the appetizers, such as smorrebrod open sandwiches, and some tasty liver pate to get your metabolism working. You’ll usually have a drink during this initial snack, such as a soft drink, water, or beer.

Remember to pace yourself, as the Julefrokost meal can last up to 12 hours!

First course: Fish

When the appetizers are out of the way, the first course is usually fish. Danes absolutely adore eating fish and tend to have it at every major celebration.

Depending on the event you’re at, you’ll find options like pickled herring, fish in curry sauce, and gravadlax salmon with a tangy dip. Breaded fish fillet does occasionally appear for kids too.

Most of the time, your fish course will be served with remoulade for extra flavor, and plenty of slices of Danish rye bread — extra dense and covered in butter. During this course, you can also have your first shot of snaps, or stick to beer.

Second course: The meat and sides

Following the second course, you’ll be eating your meat and sides. This is the biggest course at Julefrokost, so be prepared to put your belt buckle to the test.

The most important meat item is the roast pork with its crispy crackling, which is served alongside pickled cabbage, and sweet boiled potatoes. Remember to dig into some brown sauce too.

Other meat dishes include pork tenderloin (svinekod), curried meatballs (boller I karry) with white rice, and duck breast (andbryst). Some families also add some favorites like hams and turkey too, but they’re less common than they might be in other parts of the world.

During your huge meat course, you’ll also have plenty of access to beer, wine, and gløgg. Remember to finish this part of the course with a shot of snaps if you’re drinking.

Third course: Dessert

Hopefully you didn’t fill up too much on the second course, because dessert in Denmark is a fantastic affair. After mountains of traditional Danish food, you’ll get a serving of risalamande — the Danish version of rice pudding.

Served cold, risalamande features whipped cream, almonds, and vanilla topped with hot cherry sauce.

Dessert in Denmark comes with a game too. When you’re eating your rice pudding, search for the whole blanched almond in your dish. Whoever gets this almond will usually win a prize, which is often some sort of chocolate or treat.

Rice pudding is usually followed by a selection of cookies, coffees, and other snacks, if you can manage them. Port wine and coffee or tea are often more common than snaps during this course, so you can begin to ease down for the night.

Get lost soup

Finally, there’s the “Skrub af suppe”, which basically means “Get lost soup”. This is a simple soup served at the end of the Julefrokost menu, intended as a way of saying “it’s time to go”. Once the soup comes out, you know the family wants to get tidied up and ready for bed.

You can serve any kind of soup, such as butternut squash or meatball or dumplings. Crusty bread is a common accompaniment.

During the “Get lost soup” portion of the meal, you can also finish off any beer or aquavit left over.


Julefrokost and Danish snaps

The drinks accompanying your Julefrokost buffet are almost as important as the food itself. Christmas in Copenhagen and the rest of Denmark features all kinds of alcoholic beverages, including traditional beers, gløgg, wine, and the standard Aquavit, or snaps.

The Danish snaps is a pretty harsh-tasting drink, with a botanical flavor.

If you’re brave enough to try a shot of snaps, make sure you drink it all at once to be accepted fully into the Danish society — no sipping allowed. If you’d prefer to stick to something a little less harsh, you can always consider some other drinks best drunk at Christmas.

Julebryg, a Christmas beer, is a common choice among those who want to keep things mellow for the Christmas celebration. Alternatively, gløgg, a kind of Danish mulled wine, is another great choice.

If you want a little alcohol, but not too much, you can try Hvidtol, which contains a very low alcohol percentage.

While Danes tend to drink a small aquavit with every course, and plenty of gløgg and beer throughout the Julefrokost meal, that doesn’t mean you have to drink. If you want to get involved in the “Skal” toasts, you can do so with a glass of water.

The Danes will still do their best to keep you involved if you’re not drinking, so don’t feel pressured.

Traditional Julefrokost games

While food and drinks are certainly the highlight of the Julefrokost event, there are other things to look forward to, as well. Similar to other Christmas events from around the world, Danes have games they like to play at Christmas.

Pakkeleg is a common choice, where everyone invited to the dinner brings one or more small gifts, which are placed in the middle of the table.

During the first round, everyone rolls the dice, and if you roll a six, you’ll choose a gift. This continues until everyone has a gift of their own. During the second round, players roll the dice again, and if they hit a six, they get to take gifts from other players.

There’s a time limit on this second round, and when the alarm goes off, everyone gets to open the gift.

It’s common to have a selection of great and “Joke” gifts in this game, so if you’re going to be contributing, you might want to check in with the host of the Danish Christmas dinner.

There are also other games to consider, such as the mandelgave game mentioned above, which involves hiding a full blanched almond in the rice pudding course of the Julefrokost buffet.

Children often love the almond game most of all, and it’s common to see a lot of people trying to hide whether they got an almond or not. Parents generally put more than one blanched almond in the rice pudding to improve the chances of multiple children getting a treat.

Throughout the course of the celebration, you’ll also take breaks from eating and games to do some dancing and sing some Christmas songs.

You’ll probably learn more than one Danish drinking song if you’re visiting a Danish house during this festive celebration, which comes with its own challenges and games to consider.

The dancing part of the event often helps to keep people in high spirits, and burn off some of those excess calories, so you don’t fall into a food coma.


Quick tips for the Julefrokost event

Now you know the basics about the Julefrokost menu, Danish snaps, and even the games locals play around Christmas time, let’s cover some of the additional basics.

The first thing you should know is Julefrokost is it lasts all day — you need to make sure you have up to 12 hours of time in your schedule if you’re going to be attending, as leaving early might be seen as rude.

Other points to keep in mind include:

Dress code

Like most Christmas parties around the world, it’s common for people to dress up for a Julefrokost buffet. Make sure you’re not wearing any super-tight clothing, as you might regret it by the end of the night.

Dress code will often be decided by the host ahead of time, so you can always check in if you’re not sure how formal or informal you’re expected to be. Some people even dress up as Santa Clause.

Preparing for Julefrokost

Most of the time, participants will prepare gifts to take to the Julefrokost event. This will ensure you can take part in some of the games we’ve mentioned above, but you can also give a gift to the host in thanks for the food.

If you’re invited to an event where the hosts are doing most of the cooking, you can always ask whether you can bring any snacks or drinks to help. It’s also worth asking kids to bring along some hand-made Christmas decorations if you can.

Take it slow

Although there’s a lot of food to eat and a lot of alcohol to drink at a Julefrokost event, remember you’ve got all day to get through everything. You don’t have to try and eat as much as you can in one sitting or drink countless beers.

Most people advise taking it slow — particularly if it’s your first experience. There’s no shame in starting with nibbles and water to get the metabolism going.

Be social

The food is a huge part of a Julefrokost celebration — but it’s only one component. The most important part of Christmas in Denmark is connecting with people. Make sure you make an effort to talk to everyone at the buffet.

A lot of people look back and share their stories from over the year and discuss what they hope to accomplish in the future. Ask questions and make some new friends.

Make sure you can get home

It could be difficult to find transport on a Christmas Eve in Denmark, as most locations will be closed. Make sure you have a way from getting home if you’re going to be drinking. Remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day too, as you don’t wat to throw up in someone else’s car.

Most importantly, make sure you pay attention to how you feel throughout the day. Take things easy and go with the flow. Split up drinking sessions with water and stay away from snaps if you don’t want to get too drink.

Eat what you can, but enjoy yourself and focus on making a connection with the people around you. We’d also recommend getting a good night’s sleep before the event.

Ready for Danish Christmas?

A Danish Christmas lunch is an incredible thing. More than just an opportunity to stock up on delicious meals, Danish Christmas Julefrokost is a wonderful opportunity to see behind the scenes of Danish culture and meet new people.

Hosted by companies and families all over the country, this buffet is a stable of what makes Denmark so special during the holiday season.

Remember, if you’re uncertain about anything before attending your first Julefrokost, you can always check in with the host to learn more about their expectations. Different families have specific traditions they like to follow, so it’s helpful to double check if you’re expected to contribute anything.

If you’re planning on hosting a Julefrokost event yourself, you can always take a simple approach with fewer courses to begin with.

Make sure you check out our other articles and recipes to help you prepare for the holiday season in style.


Danish Julefrokost FAQ

In which country is Julefrokost celebrated?

Julefrokost is a Danish celebration. Though it means “Christmas lunch” in English, it actually stands for an all-day eating extravaganza. You’ll also find people hosting these lunches outside of Christmas Eve, usually at offices and companies.

What is the Julefrokost pronunciation?

Yool-frog-kost is the closest pronunciation we can muster. Listen to the other people at your Julefrokost event and remember to wish them a God Jul!

When does Julefrokost take place?

Julefrokost is often hosted on Christmas Eve, as this is when the main Christmas celebration in Denmark takes place. You’ll also exchange presents on this day. You might also have Julefrokost on Christmas Day, or any day throughout December.

Do you have to drink a lot at Julefrokost?

While the Danes do a lot of drinking during Christmas, there’s no requirement for you to join in. The Danes are very inclusive of all kinds of people. You’ll still be welcome if you don’t want to down snaps with everyone else.

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