Celebrating their traditions

At Tyler’s Danish Christmas event on Saturday, old traditions are still alive

Photo by Deb Gau Many visitors at the Traditional Danish Christmas in Tyler made sure to pick out their favorite homemade treats, like Danish coffee cakes, at the event’s bake shop.

TYLER — Fans of the holiday treats for sale at the Traditional Danish Christmas celebration know it pays to show up at the event early.

The doors to the Danebod Gym Hall had barely opened Saturday afternoon, and the place was already full of people picking out loaves of homemade rye bread, cookies and other goodies. The crowd swirled around tables and shelves where the long, flat shapes of Danish coffee cakes were laid out in rows.

“That’s what they come for,” Karen Kelley said of the crowd. She and members of her family were among the visitors browsing at the event. Kelley’s great-nephew, like most of the people in the gym hall, carried a cardboard box carefully balanced with baked goods.

Saturday marked a milestone year for the Traditional Danish Christmas, held at the Danebod Campus in Tyler.

“This is our 10th year,” for the Traditional Christmas, said volunteer Joy Schak. “Before that, there was a Christmas bazaar.”

People gathered at Danebod over the course of Saturday afternoon to talk over coffee, have dinner, and join in traditional activities like caroling and dancing around the Christmas tree. But as with a lot of holiday traditions, special foods were a popular part of the fun.

“We’ve gotten rid of three or four tables already,” Jan Nielsen said, as customers kept coming into the bake shop in the gym hall. Nielsen and other volunteers were busy keeping the displays looking nice and folding up empty tables, as customers came through.

Volunteers do the cooking, decorating and other preparations for the Traditional Christmas. Nielsen said women from Danebod Lutheran Church bake the coffee cakes, which have pastry folded around a filling of almonds, prunes, or other varieties of fruit.

The coffee cakes were a favorite with visitors, but there were plenty of other traditional Danish foods available at the event. Arnie Dam was selling packages of liverpostej — “a pate made with liver,” Dam said — and rullepolse, cold cuts made with seasoned and salt-cured beef.

Nielsen and fellow volunteer Marsha Peterson said the memory of family traditions might be part of what made the Danish coffee cakes at the Danish Christmas so popular.

“It’s just a Christmas treat that our mothers and grandmothers made,” Peterson said.

It’s also a treat that’s getting harder to come by, they said.

“Not many people make them,” Nielsen said. Danebod women tried holding a class to help teach younger generations how to bake Danish coffee cake.

Schak and other volunteers said getting to carry on old traditions was part of what made the Danish Christmas event fun.

“It’s fun. We enjoy it,” Arnie Dam said.