In this interview, you can read about how Renée gets into the Christmas spirit, who sets the Christmas table, and a cherished Christmas memory that Renée will never forget.
For many, Christmas is a wonderful time that brings together friends, family, and loved ones. We recently had a conversation with our Danish Oslo Skin Lab ambassador, who is also an author, psychologist, and former international supermodel. Renée Toft Simonsen shares her Christmas traditions and everything that makes the holiday special.
What does Christmas mean to you?
Christmas is a family time. It's a time to be together; to meet my children and grandchildren, my sisters and their children, as well as my mother and father. We always gather at my mother's house. She is 78 years old now, so we all contribute something. I usually take responsibility for the duck; one sister brings rice pudding, and the other sister usually buys wine, beer, and soda.
How do you get into the Christmas spirit?
I get into the Christmas spirit best when I'm not too busy. I really enjoy taking a walk in the city of Århus and looking at the Christmas decorations and all the Christmas lights. And I love the smell of roasted almonds and mulled wine on the main street.
How do you set the Christmas table?
My mother always sets the table. She does it so beautifully. In the years when the children were small and we lived in a large house, we celebrated Christmas at our place. Now, my mother is the host, so she takes care of the table setting. The rest of us contribute to the festive atmosphere, Christmas gifts, and food.
Which Special Christmas Traditions Does Your Family Have?
I think we celebrate Christmas quite similarly to everyone else. We eat duck and rice pudding, with an almond in the porridge - to the delight of the children. We walk around the Christmas tree and sing all the classic Danish Christmas songs. So, I would say it's quite similar to everyone else. One thing we often do at home after the meal and gift-giving is to play games. It could be games like "Margrethe Bowl" or a Dutch game called "Vertellis"; a question game that allows us to bond in a delightful and genuine way. In this game, you get to hear how everyone is doing, even those who may not always be good at making themselves heard “cross and around the table”.
Can You Share a Special Christmas Memory You Will Never Forget?
When I was little, maybe a bit too old to wish for a teddy bear, I still wished for one, and I got one from my grandma and grandpa! I remember it as the best Christmas of my life, even though I was too old for that gift. At that time, we visited my grandparents every other year at Christmas, and I loved being with them. I loved my grandma's Christmas. The way she did everything was so cozy, her beautiful Christmas decorations, and her kind and warm presence and space for me.
To be there for others, you also have to be there for yourself - something that can be easy to forget in a busy holiday season. What do you do to remember yourself during Christmas?
I believe there is great value in being there for others. Of course, one should not exhaust oneself to be there for others, but for me, Christmas is about my children and grandchildren, so that's what I prioritize most. However, I did one thing for myself at Christmas, which was to decline celebrating Christmas Eve with my husband's family, who always celebrate at his mother's on December 23rd. Since we celebrate with my family on December 24th, it became too stressful for me. So, in the end, I said I couldn't attend, even though I knew that evening meant a lot to my husband and his family. Instead, I spent the evening with my best friend, who always celebrated Christmas with us. We decorated the Christmas tree leisurely and ate grilled chicken and fries. This gave us time to prepare everything for December 24th. Just the two of us. It always felt like a luxurious moment in the midst of all the Christmas stress to have that time just for us.
During Christmas, many women can feel stressed due to various gatherings, gift shopping, and other preparations. What is your best advice for other women to remember during Christmas?I won't give advice on how others should organize Christmas and handle holiday stress. But something I find valuable is to really listen to what you want to do and have the energy for. So, if you feel that a party, a Christmas Eve, or a birthday is causing you too much stress, yes, cancel it with a clear conscience. In my world, you always have the right to do that, even if it can be challenging and disappointing for some. And remember, if someone cancels, it's because they need it, and they definitely have a good reason. Ultimately, most of us are very dutiful, so when we take care of ourselves by saying no to something, I think we should respect that.