J-dag: A Danish tradition that’s all about Christmas beer (Yule beer)

In Culture, Danish Culture by Skjalden

Every first Friday of November at exactly 8:59 p.m., an anticipated tradition unfolds across Denmark—the release of Christmas beer, known locally as Julebryg. This moment marks J-dag, a festive celebration that sees Danes congregating in urban centers, bars, and homes, to enjoy or probably more correctly “get hammered” while partying most of the night away. This unique beer, typically richer and darker than ordinary lagers, symbolizes the onset of the holiday season with its elevated alcohol content and sweet notes.

“A Christmas beer is not one type of beer, but typically has a higher alcohol percentage, and is sweeter and darker than an ordinary lager.”

What is the History of J-dag?

J-dag means Yule Brew Day (Danish: Julebryg dag), and it has been celebrated every year since 1990, except in 2020, due to the pandemic. It was the brewery Tuborg that came up with the idea as part of a big marketing stunt, distributing free beer in the streets of major Danish cities—a move that proved popular as it allowed students and enthusiasts to recover on Saturday.

Although J-dag was invented by Tuborg, today, many large and small breweries all over Denmark have jumped on the bandwagon and also released their Christmas beer at the beginning of November.

The First Tuborg Christmas Beer Commercial

Christmas beer has become such a widespread tradition in Denmark, that we do not only have the typical Coca-Cola Christmas commercial, but we also have commercials with Christmas beer. The first commercial aired in 1984 across the cinemas in Denmark, and afterward, it was added to the commercial breaks on the TV channels.

The Tuborg Christmas beer is also called “The Snow beer” (Danish: Snebajeren)

Tuborg Christmas Brew
This image is from the blue and white advertisement for Tuborg Christmas brew. The text reads: Merry Christmas and a Happy Tub’year (Danish: Glædelig jul og godt Tub’år)

Christmas beer is for adults and children

The tradition is so strong, that some breweries even have made root beers for children called Hvidtøl, a traditional Danish beer that is often sweet and low in alcohol. These are mostly called “Nisseøl” by the Danes, referring to ‘elf beer,’ linked to the Christmas folklore of elves or ‘nisser.’ While you might be inclined to think ‘Hey, these are probably alcohol-free since they are for children,’ you would be wrong. Most of these Christmas root beers for children contain between 1.7 to 1.9 percent alcohol. However, most children don’t like them or just share half of a bottle with their brother or sister.

As J-dag continues to evolve, with trends leaning towards more inclusive, alcohol-free options, the essence of the tradition—community and celebration—remains unchanged. Rooted deeply in Danish culture, the Christmas beer celebration is a testament to the enduring love for communal festivities that span centuries, from the Vikings to the modern Dane. As we look towards the future, the tradition of J-dag, with its jovial spirit and festive brews, is likely to continue warming the cold November nights in Denmark.