Christmas Comes Early For Denmark’s Beer Drinkers

Written by Sidsel Overgaard for npr.org

In the U.S., Thanksgiving marks the unofficial start of the race to Christmas (unless you happen to decorate department stores, then it starts in October). But in Denmark, the Christmas race starts tonight.

J-Day, as its known, is the momentous occasion when at exactly 8:59 p.m. on the first Friday of November, the 140-year old Tuborg Brewery releases Julebryg (Christmas Brew), the high-octane libation that will fuel most holiday festivities in the country for the next six weeks. And then it’s gone.

Despite having such a short lifespan, this strong, dark pilsner (5.6 percent alcohol by volume) with aromas of “licorice and black currant” is Denmark’s fourth best selling beer, and J-Day is far and away the biggest day of the year for Tuborg, which is now owned by the Carlsberg Group. When “the snow falls tonight,” as the slogan goes, Danes will pack the bars and spill into the biggest day of the year for Tuborg, which is now owned by the Carlsberg Group. When “the snow falls tonight,” as the slogan goes, Danes will pack the bars and spill into the streets. They’ll sing and dance and wear silly hats provided free from Tuborg, all for the chance to get a first taste and welcome the season with a hardy “Skål!”

What’s unusual is that this national tradition came about because of a commercial — a single TV ad that ran for the first time in 1980, and has been running ever since. “It’s probably the only ad in the world that hasn’t changed in 30 years,” says Carlsberg’s Jens Bekke. Check it out below.