Last Christmas, Benjamin Rubæk found himself surrounded by strangers grooving to the blare of a tuba. Onstage, a funk band played; looking around, he watched as all ages, from young kids with their families, to older hippies, danced enthusiastically. “It was just super good vibes,” he recalls.
For the past three years, Rubæk has attended Grey Hall’s annual Christmas Eve event, which sees Christiania’s largest concert venue transformed into a festive wonderland. Decked in twinkling lights, with snowflake decorations suspended from the cavernous ceiling, the interior is filled with long tables that seat a diverse crowd together, many of whom travel across the country to attend. After a lavish banquet, the music amps up and a party starts that stretches on to the early hours.
“Grey Hall is a fun alternative for me,” says Rubæk, who works in a skate shop in Christiania. “It’s not all about Christmas and gifts and Santa Claus. It’s about people having a different kind of party.”
While Grey Hall attracts many who are simply seeking a variant on the more mainstream celebrations occurring elsewhere, it also serves a more profound purpose. Anyone is welcomed to the free event, including members of Copenhagen’s homeless community. For attendees like Rubæk, who is estranged from his family, it provides a refuge during a time that can feel deeply lonely otherwise.
“One Christmas I was sitting home by myself because I didn’t know what to do. And I was super sad because I knew what everyone else was doing,” he says. “I don’t have a wife, I don’t have kids – this is a really good alternative for a single man.”
And, as Rubæk points out, Grey Hall’s open-doors ethos really does embody the true spirit of Christmas. “Everyone is sharing Christmas on the same terms.”