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Many Danish Christmas carols are far from being churchly; they just tell stories of Danish Christmas traditions. “Højt fra træets grønne top” (= High above from the top of the green tree) is in the repertoire of almost every Christmas Eve celebration.

Højt fra træets grønne top
stråler juleglansen,
spillemand, spil lystigt op,
nu begynder dansen.
Læg nu smukt din hånd i min,
ikke rør’ ved den rosin!
Først skal træet vises,
siden skal det spises.Se, børnlil, nu går det godt,
I forstår at trave,
lad den lille Sine blot
få sin julegave.
Løs kun selv det røde bånd!
Hvor du ryster på din hånd!
Når du strammer garnet,
kvæler du jo barnet.
Peter har den gren så kær,
hvorpå trommen hænger,
hver gang han den kommer nær,
vil han ikke længer.
Hvad du ønsker, skal du få,
når jeg blot kan stole på,
at du ej vil tromme,
før min sang er omme.Børn, nu er jeg blevet træt,
og I får ej mere,
moder er i køkkenet,
nu skal hun traktere.
Derfor får hun denne pung,
løft engang, hvor den er tung!
Julen varer længe,
koster mange penge.

 

 

This carol tells the story of the Danish Christmas tree and associated traditions. The first Christmas trees came to Denmark from Germany in the beginning of the 19th century. In course of December, Danish Families buy their Christmas tree. At the latest on Christmas Eve, the fir tree is placed in the living room and decorated with classical Christmas decorations and with sweets.

 

1

Johansen Viggo – Radosne Boże Narodzenie, 1891 – Public Domain Marked

Dancing around the Christmas tree.

On Christmas Eve, the Danes dance around the Christmas tree, a more or less slow hand in hand round dance. Singing Christmas Carols is part of the traditional dance around the tree. “Højt fra træets grønne top” tells the story of the family dancing around the tree in the middle of the 19th century. The beautiful star, angel or whatever you see on top of the tree is shining.

The children are inpatient when they pass by their presents. In old days, the gifts were hanging on the branches of the tree, nowadays the gifts mostly are placed under the tree. The carol’s verses tell the children to be patient until the carol is finished. The last verse is a tribute to the mother, who has worked hard with the preparation of the Christmas dinner: she is given a purse with lots of money – as Christmas is very expensive.

 

 

 

 

2

Peter Faber, malet af Jørgen Luplau Janssen, 12 marts 1903 – Public Domain Marked

The text.

Peter Faber (1810-1877) is the author of the text. Faber was a technician in the telegraph branch. He was the director of the new telegraph service from 1853-77. Writing song texts was his hobby. He never saw himself as a poet. He was among others good at writing revue texts. The Christmas carol “Højt fra træets grønne top“ was one of the texts that made him famous, a text that simply depicted celebrating Christmas in Copenhagen families.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3

Emil Hornemann by E. Hohlenberg 1884 – Public Domain Marked

The music.

Emil Hornemann (1809-1870) had inherited the family talent for graphic arts but his father wanted him to study music. No problem for the young man with artistic talents. When Hornemann together with a companion opened a combined music and art shop he focused on music teaching editions, a subject area, which until that time was not payed much interest to in Denmark. Hornemann’s compositions fall in the same category, popular music and child friendly compositions, e.g. nursery rhymes. “Højt fra træets grønne top” kind of tells the story of the Christmas tree from a child’s angle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

Oscar Stribolt og Viktoria Petersen i sommerrevyen 1909 – Public Domain Marked

The performance.

Oscar Stribolt (1873-1927) originally was a blacksmith. Because of his fantastic voice, he got a chance at the theatre. The present recording is a digitization of Stribolt’s voice on a wax cylinder. Faber originally had written eight verses, but as the recording time for a cylinder is only about three minutes, Stribold only sang four verses into the horn of the phonograph: listen to the extract here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Sabine Schostag (Statsbiblioteket)