As you all might already know, I live in Denmark, born and raised!
My boyfriend is moving to Denmark from the UK, and he has been in for quite an amount of surprises, and here is a list of funny things that we do or don’t do for you guys to read about!
No. 1 New years day, the 1st of January, is mainly celebrated in doors, relaxing, watching bad TV or sleeping most of the day. We love to drink and celebrate at New Years and that is felt the day after – ouch!
No. 2 A little bit of fact, Danish traditions are a mix of Christian and Pagan beliefs and some traditions are imported from other countries, our traditions are dated on our calendar and are without major fuss, but we do enjoy out scheduled holidays very much!
No. 3 The Twelfth Night of Christmas always fall on January the 5th and a tradition we have, is to light and enjoy the Christmas tree for the last time. (Yes many Danish families have real candles on our tree)
No. 4 Another tradition is to light the special three-arm Epiphany candle. In old days these candles contained gunpowder, that exploded just before the candle burned out. When that happened, everyone knew that Christmas was really over, the end of an era.
No. 5 Candlemas day, the 2nd of January is a special day we had as a holy day once, but that was abolished in 1770, we lit candles and celebrated that the dark and cold winter was almost over, although recently the churches in Denmark celebrate Candlemas day, by having a special candle light service.
No. 6 Saint Valentines day is a very new tradition in Denmark, that got introduced in the 1990’s, and also one some of the incarnated Danes do not have, if your proper Danish, you think Valentines is too Americanized and despise this holiday, BUT the younger generation – aka my generation, have seemed to grasp this holiday anyway, and its held the 14th of January in Denmark, mostly with cards, chocolate and minor things.
No. 7 Shrovetide is an old Danish tradition, that grew from Catholic heritage mixed with superstition and rituals. Today its a children’s festival, where children dress up, suspend a wooden barrel, and beat it untill the contents of the barrel is emptied, where the inside is filled with sweets, the children gets prizes for best costumes, get crowned king and queen for the one who empties the barrel and the one who finishes the last bit of the barrel on the string!
No. 8 Easter is an annual religious holiday here in Denmark, that is all about the crucifixion, burial and rise of Jesus Christ, but to most of us regular Danish people, it means the end of a long and cold winter, chocolate eggs, egg painting, holiday travels and the first flowers starts to bloom. We normally have big family gatherings where we eat way too much food!
No. 9 Danish history, a dark day, April the 9th, 1940, at 4:15 Nazi German forces invaded Denmark, then five long years followed with occupation, that ended when the Allied forces defeated Germany in May 1945. Each year, we celebrate / mourn this day, by having our national flag ”Dannebrog” at half mast.
No. 10 The queens birthday. Queen Margrethe the 2nd’s birthday falls on April the 16th and she was actually born one week after the German occupation in 1940. The queen has ruled since 1972 and is a great personality in Denmark and very popular and loved. Every year on her birthday, thousands of Danes gather outside Amalienborg, where she lives, in Copenhagen, and greet her.
No. 11 The great day of prayer. This Holiday falls on the 4th Friday after easter, and is one of the few traditions that survived the new Holiday Reform in 1770. It’s an old tradition, where you walk the ramparts of the citadel in Copenhagen the evening before, another is to eat warm wheat buns.
No. 12 The May-day! This is a tradition loved by young teens, it’s also called International Workers Day, and is always on May the 2nd. It’s a day with demonstrations, celebrations organized by trade unions and left-wing political organizations, and also involves a lot of drinking! Most people inside the capital of Copenhagen travels to ”Fælledparken”, which is a big and very popular park inside of Copenhagen, to listen to the demonstration, to drink, listen to music and all the politicians.
No. 13 Denmark’s Liberation. When the liberation from the German occupation of Denmark was announced over BBC on the evening of May the 4th 1945, Danes spontaneously put lit candles in their windows. Since then it’s been a Danish tradition to light candles and place them in your window every 4th of May.
No. 14 Ascension Day. This day is held 40 days after easter, and is the day where Jesus Christ rises up into the clouds. This day is a national holiday, and many workplaces are also closed the following day.
No. 15 Constitution Day. On June the 5th we celebrate the signing of the Danist constitution in 1849. Almost all shops and workplaces are closed that day, and all over the country, politicians give speeches at meetings in the parks, gardens and other sites, where people can gather and have a picnic.
No. 16 Valdemar’s Day. Valdemar’s Day falls on June 15, because an old legend tells that our flag – the oldest state flag in the world still in use – fell from the sky into the hands of Danish King Valdemar II during the Battle of Lyndanisse in Estonia on June 15 in 1219.
No. 17 Graduation days. Around mid June we see the them everywhere… I have also been one! Happy, laughing, singing graduates wearing their graduation caps, symbolizing that they have completed an upper secondary education, that qualifies them for admission to universities and other higher education institutions.
No. 18 Saint Hans Eve On June 23 we celebrate Saint Hans’ Eve by lighting bonfires along the shores and other sites, where people can gather, have picnics and a good time. Lighting bonfires at this time of the year is an old tradition that goes back to pagan times, where people celebrated the summer solstice.
No. 19 Halloween was once a pagan festival among the Celts in Ireland and Britain. Different versions of the tradition was brought to N. America by Irish and other immigrants. In 1998, Halloween was introduced to Denmark, where we celebrate it after the American model on the eve of October 31.
No. 20 Saint Martin’s Eve. A famous legend about Saint Martin tells that he hid in a goose shed to avoid being appointed as Bishop of Tours in November, 371. The geese, however, cackled and betrayed him. So, as bishop he decided that each year in November geese should be slaughtered and eaten as punishment.
No. 21 Advent. The first Sunday of Advent sometimes falls in late autumn, sometimes in early winter. On that day we light the first of four candles in the Advent wreath, watch the lighting of the public Christmas trees, and enjoy home made æbleskiver and Christmas glogg with family and friends.
No. 22 The Feast of Saint Lucy. On December 13 we celebrate the Feast of Saint Lucy, who died as martyr under the persecution of the Christians in Syracuse in Sicily. The celebration is a Swedish Christmas tradition that we imported in 1944 as an attempt to bring light in a time of darkness during World War II.
No. 23 Christmas here in Denmark is a blend of Christian customs and pagan traditions, that are deeply rooted in the heathen winter festival called Jòl. Also, many traditions have come to us from Germany. Examples are the Christmas calender, the Advent wreath and the Christmas Tree. Christmas is celebrated the 24th of December, in the evening, by having a great feast, and opening presents.
No. 24 New Years Eve. One of our traditons at New Years, is to listen to our Queen’s New Year’s speech, that is sent live on TV just before dinner time. Another tradition is to have cod fish with mustard sauce for dinner. At midnight, we welcome the New Year with champagne, marzipan ring cakes, and fireworks.