The Rybalko-Agertoft Family
In a world with diverse cultures and traditions, families all celebrate the holidays differently, oftentimes continuing old customs and creating new traditions along the way. Member Christine Agertoft shares how she and her family make the holiday season special and meaningful even when they are miles away from their hometown.
Please tell us a bit about you and your family.
We are a mixed-culture family. I’m Danish, while my husband Sergej was born in Ukraine but moved to Germany as a child. We have three children, Igor (9), Ellie (5), and Uma (3). This is our second time in Singapore and combined we have been here nearly seven years.
What made you and your family decide to relocate to Singapore?
Our first stint in Singapore was purely for the adventure. We moved around Europe when we first met but had been in Copenhagen, Denmark for many years by then. The second time was more deliberate. We missed Singapore.
What are your favorite holiday traditions?
Our holiday traditions are mainly Danish. They are very much centered around the concept of “hygge”. Hygge is about creating small family moments together. As an example, we make an advent wreath with four candles about a month before Christmas Eve, and the four Sundays before Christmas Eve we sit down together, eat something sweet, and light one of the candles. The sum of all those small moments of making the wreath, crafting the Christmas tree decorations together, writing letters to loved ones, and making sweets together is what makes Christmas for us. It’s a month of looking inward and appreciating what you have.
How do you typically celebrate the holidays with your family?
We celebrate Christmas on the eve of Christmas, the 24th of December. At noon, we eat a special sweet rice porridge containing one whole almond. The one who finds the almond gets the prize. Then we place the gifts under the tree, cook, and have dinner. After dinner, the gifts are distributed, and everyone takes turns opening a gift. Then total chaos and bedtime.
Are there any specific foods or drinks that you associate with the holiday season?
Risengrød (rice pudding with cinnamon, butter and a special sweet beer brewed on caramel and chocolate), æbleskiver (a ball-shaped pancake served with powder sugar and jam), havregrynskugler (oatmeal and cocoa powder balls that were first invented during World War II as a substitute for chocolate), konfekt (homemade sweets made of chocolate, marzipan, nuts and dried fruits), brunede kartofler (caramelized potatoes) and flæskesteg (Danish roast pork). No one misses snaps – typically Aquavit – but that would traditionally be included in a Danish Christmas celebration.
How do you like to unwind and relax during the holidays?
Taking those small moments together makes the holidays less stressful.
Do you have any specific goals or resolutions for the New Year?
Our family goal is to be a little more adventurous in travel. Finally, we don’t have to bring a stroller or worry too much about the kids getting sick. Now is the time to explore again.
Are there any cultural aspects to your holiday celebrations that you would like to share?
Being in Singapore, we have added some new traditions. The kids love having their pictures taken with Santa at The American Club since Santa is a very rare sight in Denmark.
Are there any holiday traditions that you would like to pass on to your children and hope that they pass on to their children?
Most of all, we hope they pass on the tradition of slowing down and appreciating what they have. We will also pass them some special decorative items to hang on their Christmas tree when they grow up. One of these is Christmas baubles decorated in Peranakan style for them to remember Singapore wherever they end up.