Christmas for Three Sisters in Denmark
Mille, Filippa and Freja were three sisters who loved Christmas as much as they loved their beloved country of Denmark. On the last day of November, they were swinging in the back yard, allowing their long flaxen or brown hair and dark skirts to move with their motions and the crisp air. Mille, the oldest, quickly grew tired of swinging and waited until the swing was at its highest juncture before jumping off and landing on the mossy ground.
She landed on her feet, using her arms to balance herself as if she were an airplane. The other girls continued to swing while Mille sat on her Fjällräven backpack and weaved an Advent wreath of spruce twigs that they had all gathered during the morning frost. Her fingers worked quickly, as if she had knitting needles between her long slender fingers. Soon, she stood and placed the wreath on her brown hair and then ran around the back yard. After a few moments, she stopped running and began to walk slowly with her head down and seek red berries and spruce cones from the trees and bushes that separated the Jensen’s home and that of the neighbors. She also checked on her little sisters, as their father’s stern request that the girls looked after their sisters echoed in her head. The two flaxen blondes, who looked like their mother, Ida, were just fine. She smiled at them, and they smiled back.
When the grunt work was done, her sisters joined her side as they all walked into the front door. They were met with warmth, as the fireplace was ablaze with a new Yuletide log. The fireplace screen was in place. The tree was many feet away from the fireplace, and decorations on the fireplace mantle were away from the flames and potential sparks.
Mille took a couple of pine cones and added them to the fire, and then the girls washed their hands and then went to the next station, which was the dining table. On it they found a table runner. On it were colorful markers, glue, scissors, construction paper, felt, tiny glasses, and more red berries and spruce cuttings from trees in their own back yard. Freja lifted the wreath from Mille’s head and then laid it on the table.
Their mother was at the stove using their double boiler to heat wax for the white candles that the girls would make in order to finish out the wreath. She asked the girls to attach the berries, cones and cuttings to the wreath. While they were doing that, she poured the hot wax into the tiny glasses on the other side of the table, away from the girls. The girls watched the glasses while the wax began to cool and harden. Afterward, their mother stood behind each of them and removed a silky red ribbon from each head of hair.
“Mommy, now I know why you put double ribbons on us today,” said Filippa with a smile. She was tempted to put her fingers on the top of one of the candles, but had learned a few Christmases back that wax can cling to and burn delicate skin.
Soon their mother went back to the double boiler, where water boiled in the outer pot and wax melted in the one sitting inside of it. To the wax she allowed Mille to add some red food dye. Soon, whirls of red and white began to form, making a type of peppermint swirl. She turned off the stove top and then moved the two pots to the back burner.
It is then that the step stool came out. The three girls took out a ruler and then they marked a 24 inch tall and super thick glass with 24 marks, each an inch apart. The marker was thick, so the numbers 1-24 showed through very well. When they were done, they moved aside while their mother poured hot wax into the tall glass. They had bought all of the candle glass from a specialty shop, because they needed glass that would stand up to high heat without shattering.
“How pretty,” said the girls when they saw the red and white pattern forming in the glass. Frost was also visible, but it soon dissipated.
While waiting for the wax to cool, the girls drew little elves, pixies, trees, and made felt hats and clogs for the figures and decorations for the tree. Filippa taught them how to make small circles for the cheeks of their tiny characters. Soon they added these completed characters and decorations to the candle calendar, being careful not to cover the marks they’d made earlier.
When their papa came home, they showed him the wreath, and he got a ladder, set it up and then double-checked it for safety and hung it from the ceiling. They had dinner, with the candle calendar ready for the first night’s lighting the next day, on December 1.
By bedtime they had finished everything. The girls joyously put on their Christmas pajamas and went to bed.
The next day, at lunch Papa lit the candle calendar and then blew it out when it had sunk an inch. He turned it into a lesson. “Do you see how papa does this?” he said. The girls enjoyed the teachable moment. Papa continued, “Every Christmas, houses burn down, and people get injured from being unsafe in hanging lights, using their Christmas trees and fireplaces, and lighting candles. The Jensen family will not have this experience,” he declared.
Every day they did the same thing, except their papa didn’t come home for lunch. He was working extra hours so there could be wonderful treats and gifts under the table. When it was Christmas Eve, their father required them to wait until dinner time to light the candles, because he would be home by then. “Only papa should light the candle, as the flame will now be close to the top. Papa knows how to be safe,” he intoned. The family waited, and watched as he lit the candle. They watched as he put out the fireplace fire too, being careful to make sure that not even a spark remained. “We don’t want Santa to have scorch pants or a toasty bun,” he said, with a twinkle in his eyes. The girls laughed and waited until he was done to fall on him with kisses and hugs.
The next morning, they heard Papa’s trumpet blast. Christmas was the only time he blew it. Upon hearing it, the girls went to the living room and waited by the tree. Their gifts were bounteous as always. The wrappings of green and shades of blue, red and cranberry covered most of the living room floor when they were done. The girls gave their parents their gifts and they all made pancakes together. Making them was as much fun as eating them. Each ate a nice stack.
When they were as stuffed as Thanksgiving turkeys, they went back to the living room and watched the 24th series of a special Christmas program on television.
The girls were so grateful for the blessings. Thinking that all gift-giving was over, they were ecstatic when their mother went to the garage and came back with a purple bike. She turned around and went back and wheeled in a pink bike after that. Finally, she disappeared in the garage and came back with a yellow bike. All of them had streamers and baskets to match the bike frames.
They got dressed and went outside. Their father, ever concerned about safety, was outside waiting as they wheeled their bikes out the front door one-by-one. It was there that he gave each a bicycle helmet. The girls were then provided safe riding lessons about crossing roads, signaling and more by – guess who? It was their papa of course!