In Denmark, the tradition of eating rice pudding, or risengrød, on Christmas starts with a mischievous elf.
In many European countries, traditions around Christmastime feature magical creatures who are slightly less benevolent than the American version of Santa and his elves. Many of these sprites, in fact, are trying to steal or otherwise make trouble for people.
Danish folklore features a gnome or elf-like creature known as the nisse, who lives in barns and becomes particularly active during the Christmas season. If treated well, the nisse can be helpful, but if treated badly, he may retaliate by stealing small items or harming livestock. So, in the Christmas spirit, Danish families would leave out a helping of rice pudding for the nisse.
Now, fewer people are worried about the health of their sheep or cows, but the tradition of eating risengrød on Christmas Eve continues. For a sweeter dish, families gussy up cold risengrød with vanilla, whipped cream, chopped almonds, and warm cherry sauce, transforming it into a dish known as risalamande. This treat is often turned into a game of sorts: One whole almond is hidden in the pudding, and everyone has to keep eating until the nut is found.