Christina Meyer Bengtsson and Claus Meyer
on celebrating Christmas with a satirical nativity play
Every year in December, Christina Meyer Bengtsson and Claus Meyer invite 100 friends and family members to a festive evening complete with a satirical nativity play where author Knud Romer has starred as God and health minister Magnus Heunicke most recently played a leading role. Afterwards, they all feast on Moroccan stews washed down with homemade mulled wine.
Christina Meyer Bengtsson (CMB): This December marks 20 years since we first performed a nativity play in the stables in our garden. The tradition started when I decided that we should put the building to use—it’s quite unusual to have one in a garden in Frederiksberg.
Claus Meyer (CM): We like having guests and wanted to wish our family and friends a merry Christmas. We then became good friends with a vicar who could read the Gospel of Luke.
CMB: The first few years we dressed up as Mary and Joseph, but since then others have taken over these roles—much to the delight of our children who thought it was toe-curling.
CM: It was embarrassing! We call it a nativity show as it's more traditional nativity play meets modern satire. A current topic is always woven into the script, which we write together with the 20 friends who take part in it. Our friend Knud Romer has played the role of God and also helped write a few scripts. Among other things, they have covered #MeToo, Trump and the anti-immigration sentiment in Europe. Last year we focused on Covid-19 and the wise men were prime minister Mette Frederiksen and politicians Mogens Jensen and Magnus Heunicke. I was supposed to play Heunicke, but instead left the stage shouting that I couldn’t. A man dressed in a balaclava stepped out from the background, took off his hat and said: "Okay, then let me do it." It took a few seconds before people realised that it was Heunicke.
CMB: I stay out of the spotlight, in the choir of angels. I take care of the scenography together with my friend who’s a theatrical costume designer. The barn has a door under the roof and one year my friend attached a large, red metallic foil heart to it—a vulva from which Jesus was born. Naked except for a pair of cowboy boots, he came out through the heart.
CM: A few friends help me in the kitchen so that we can serve food to all the guests. The nativity takes place in Bethlehem, which is why the food is Middle Eastern. For the past many years I’ve made dahl and a slow-cooked, spicy Moroccan meat dish. There are always different salads with pomegranate, orange, tahini dressing and other classic Middle Eastern ingredients. We serve it all alongside traditional Danish Christmas cakes and confectionery.
CMB: While Claus is in the kitchen, I set the table. It’s a fusion of traditional Middle Eastern style and Danish Christmas; eclectic, colourful and relaxed, with antique dinnerware and homemade ceramics. I love finding old Christmas decorations at flea markets. Christmas elves, small Danish flags and kitsch objects. I let myself indulge in nostalgia and max out on the decorations. Every year we create a Christmas scene in the dining room, too.
CM: We want people to notice the effort we’ve put into it. Our gatherings exude opulence, but not the caviar and champagne kind. We serve lots of different dishes and different types of mulled wine and wines, confectionery and cakes—and always plenty of everything. I have often made so much dahl that we have eaten leftovers for months after. We also invite more people than the house can hold, but that's part of the charm, and far better than having to exclude anyone. We try to create a warm and inviting atmosphere that brings joy into people's lives, making it a day they will remember for a long time.
Christina Meyer Bengtsson is a visual designer and founder of Heartwork Design, a graphic, industrial and interior design studio. Claus Meyer is a Danish chef and entrepreneur and founder of Meyers and the Melting Pot Foundation. He is also the co-founder of Noma, which has been crowned The World's Best Restaurant multiple times.
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