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Tivoli Gardens Entrance at Christmas

Traditions

Most Danes celebrate many of the red-letter days throughout the year. Most of these include Christian holidays and feasts and some other of different origin or folk culture. These days have many traditions with regard to food and celebration of the event with ones and friends. Some notable days are as follows:

January 6th, Danes celebrate the Epiphany. It is celebrated by burning a special candle with three wicks symbolic of the Holy Trinity. This candle signifies the twelfth night after Christmas. When the candles thus go out, it symbolizes the end of Christmas.

The Shrovetide falls on different days each year either in February or March. As Catholic tradition tells us this day must signify the 40 fast-days before Easter. Shrovetide is a children’s festival in which they dress up and go out trying to fill a collection tin with donations. The money they receive comes from when they ring the door bell and sing, “Boller op, boller ned, boller i min mave, hvis jeg ingen boller får, så laver jeg ballade? (“Buns up, buns down, buns in my tummy, If I don’t get any buns, I’ll make trouble?") These buns they sing about symbolize a time when poor Danes had to live off of solely bread and had to sing for them. Today, it is merely the money the children sing for. Yet Shrovetide buns are still eaten throughout Denmark.

Easter, the Christian Church’s commemoration of Christ’s death and resurrection, typically falls during either March or April. The Danish church celebrates through various Easter festivals. For example, in Catholic countries, they may reenact the Gospel stories in the liturgy during mass. The events celebrated during Easter are: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.

For most Danes, Easter is a symbol of the end of Winter. Therefore, Danes use the Easter holidays to symbolize Spring and Summer by opening up their “holiday” or vacation home and begin gardening. Through time, Easter has become more of a Spring tradition than a Christian.

The “Viz” is a common tradition in Denmark during Easter. It is what they call “teaser letters.” In the weeks before Easter, school children cut out elaborate letters, on which they write a “teaser verse.” The letter is anonymous, but it is signed with a number of dots corresponding to the number of letters in the sender’s name. The recipient thus has a chance of guessing who sent it. The pledge is a chocolate Easter egg redeemed at Easter and the letter is accompanied by a snowdrop, which is regarded as the first flower of the year.

December 13th, Danes commemorate Saint Lucia. As a part of Advent "the coming of Christ," Saint Lucia is honored as the light that guides. On this day, children dress in white gowns carrying a candle in procession. The Lucia "bride" carries the Advent wreath with the four candles. This custom was adopted from the Swedes.

December 24th, Danes celebrate Christmas. The major celebration is on the eve rather than Christmas day. Though Denmark is a historically Christian country, its ties to Christmas have become more about family than the birth of Christ. On the eve, parents bring in the Christmas tree from outside and decorate it as a surprise for their children. A traditional Christmas dinner is served (roast pork, potatoes, and cabbage). After dinner parents serve "yule brew" (a sweet beer) and the children open their presents. The family then gathers together and sing and dance around the Christmas tree. The following day, the family joins with extended relatives and friends to continue the Christmas celebration.

 

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