I’m planning to take it easy and will be enjoying the sights, smells and sounds that make me love Denmark and those crazy Danes. Especially the signs! Yes, yes, it’s childish, I know, but even after living here for 15 years, all those fart signs still make me laugh! (For more of these silly signs, see my very first post on denmark.dk – Mind Your Language! and also Danish Anger Management , You Are What You Eat and Æ, Ø Å…oh, oh!)
If there’s one thing that signals the start of the (6 week) Danish summer school holidays for me, it’s the sound of blaring music, car horns, singing and cheering. Danish high school kids are graduating this week and (surely you know what’s coming next?) there’s a quaint Danish tradition attached! 😉
After the graduates are sent off with an 8am singsong (dimission) in the school hall, they head outside and start decorating trucks…
Lots of greenery and the all-important Danish flags…
I think we need more balloons over here, please!
And why is it that it’s always the girls who get left to doing the decorating? Hmm… (And, yes, yes, young Danish girls are all very tall and skinny.)
One of the most important things is the banner on the side of the truck. Which tells you which class and high school the students graduated from. And what the students will do if you wave to them or give them a toot from your car. The banner on the truck above reads “1 Toot, we drink. 2 Toots, we finish the glass. 3 Toots, we’ll give you a flash.” And these Danes keep their promises…we saw several bare bottoms last year!
Once the trucks are decorated and the beer crates are loaded on board, it’s time for the graduates to climb aboard (there’s a little ladder at the back) and drive around the neighbourhood or into the city. Not for an hour. Not for the whole morning. For the whole day. Singing and waving at passers by and motorists. Who are only too glad to wave back and toot. Moi included. In fact, sometimes I actually follow the trucks around for a bit – it’s not often you get the chance to toot until your heart’s content…
The trucks make stops at each student’s house along the way, where proud parents/family/friends/neighbours are waiting with (yes, more and more) flags. A toilet stop and a bite to eat…
And more drinks…
And so on and so forth until it’s the wee small hours of the next morning, the trucks finally grind to a halt, the tooting stops, the speakers are unplugged, everything is a bit blurry and we can all finally get to sleep!
Kid you not, we’ve just had a full week’s balmy, hot, sunny weather in Copenhagen. Almost 30 degrees celcius today (86f) – summer is here! And is set to leave us again because thunder and torrential rain is on the way… 😉 But, hey ho, at least our hyldeblomst (elderflower) bushes are in full bloom. Now, hyldeblomst is generally considered a weed – they just appear in your garden, wanted or not. I think they’re actually quite pretty – small creamy coloured flowers which turn into crimson berries in the autumn. We’ve ‘lucky’ to have two large bushes in our back garden…
The Danes drink elderflower juice all year round – you’ll find it in most bars and cafés. I used to make my own elderflower cordial until one year when I couldn’t get hold of the required sachets of citric acid – and discovered this recipe for Hyldeblomstchampagen – Elderflower Champagne. Easy, sassy and soooo good! 🙂
Cut about 10 small elderflower heads (in full bloom – not the ones turning pale brown) and rinse them gently with cold water – just to get any bugs out 😉
Pop them in a very large pot, to which you add a roughly chopped lemon. Pips n’ all.
Pour over 750g sugar (just over 1 lb) and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. White wine vinegar if you have it.
Lastly, pour over 4½ litres (roughly 9 pints) of cold water. What, absolutely no yeast required? No, it’s one of those marvels of science! Give it a good stir round, cover and leave for at least 24 hours in a cool place.
The next day you can strain it and put it into sturdy glass bottles. A word of warning: it gets really fizzy, so you need bottles which won’t pop! Screw top wine bottles are really good.
Leave the bottles in a cool, dark place. You might want to wrap them in a plastic carrier bag – just in case they ‘pop’. Natural yeast will work it’s wonderful magic and – after about 6 weeks – you’ll have the most fantastic, golden, summery champagne which will make even the French turn green with envy. Serve really cold. And be careful when you open the bottle! (Lock animals and kids indoors and wear firework goggles…)
If you leave it longer than 6 weeks, it will start to lose some of its fizz (and be less alcoholic) but still be drinkable.
We’re nearing the end… Anyone for a piece of kransekage (Danish wedding cake)?
Danish wedding cake - kransekage
Now, I may not be Danish by descent but I’m as mad about marcipan as the next Thor, Dennis or Henrik. And kransekage is made out of marcipan, egg whites and icing sugar… Baked in circles, towered high and adorned with Danish flags for weddings. Sometimes it’s baked in little logs or tiny circles (with their bottoms dipped in chocolate) and served at the end of a fancy meal. We also eat it at midnight on Nytårsaften (New Year’s Eve) when the bells ring in the New Year, washed down with a glass of champagne or two…
Kransekage on New Year's Eve - complete with fireworks!
Yum-o! So, with the last crumbs of the cake eaten and the guests enjoying a last boogie on the dancefloor, that just about wraps up our Danish wedding. But wait! Talking of wrapping – what about the bryllupsgaver – the wedding gifts? Um, we’re going to need a truck to take them home!
Birthdays or weddings...bring your gift along on the day!
What, you mean those crazy Danes actually brought their gifts along to the wedding party? Yep. In Denmark there is no wedding shower, or show of presents for the mums, aunties and grannies before the wedding. Guests bring their gifts with them – as they also do at birthday parties, christenings, confirmations, graduations, etc, etc. And place them on the specially designated gavebord – gift table. (I’ve even been to weddings in Jutland where staff were on hand to unpack the gifts for the couple, in order to save time!) On a side note, the word gift in Danish means ‘married’. And it also means ‘poison’. Co-incidence? I think not! 😉
Now, you may think bringing along the gifts is a quaint tradition. But not practical. Especially when me and ‘Mr. Diane’ – both of us working in Luxembourg at the time, and just months before relocating to Copenhagen – got hitched in my hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland. Hubby’s Danish family flew over to Scotland for the wedding, brandishing gifts. Most of them fragile! Which we then had to transport from Edinburgh to Luxembourg. And then back to Denmark…
From Denmark, to Scotland, to Luxembourg, and back to Denmark!
But, hey, it’s the thought that counts, right? Well, the wedding is over and I don’t know about you, but after six posts on Danish weddings, I’m ready for a drink. Join me next time when I’ll be showing you how to make hyldeblomstchampagne – elderflower champagne!
We interrupt – again, again, again – the series on Danish Wedding traditionsto bring you another public service announcement!
This coming Saturday – 15 June – is Valdemarsdag. And what is that, I hear you ask? Well, on 15 June 1219 Valdemar the Second of Denmark was fighting a crusade in Estonia. His army were losing the battle and prayed for God’s help. Lo and behold, a flag fell from the sky…a white cross on a read background. And they – selvfølgelig – went on to win the battle. And so goes the legend of Dannebrog– the Danish flag – the oldest national flag in the world.
Now, here comes the interesting part. Since 2000 Valdemarsdag has become the ‘biggest party for old people’ in Denmark- “Danmarks Største Ældrefest“! Thirty-two thousand of them! Yep, sprightly and not-so-sprightly oldies will be celebrating in old people’s homes and daycentres all over Denmark – with speeches by majors, live music and dancing. But the most important part is the food and drink…
Easter, Christmas, Valdemarsdag...anytime is a good time for a snaps!
To drink? AalborgSnaps – akvavit. 1,200 bottles of the stuff. Delivered to them by Post Danmark – so watch out for your red postie on Saturday – he’ll be carrying some Very Important Packages! 😉
Kartofler for Valdemarsdag
And to eat? New Danish potatoes. In 2000 a lady ‘smuggled’ some new Danish potatoes in her handbag to her husband who was in an OAP home. A rare treat! Since then Danmarks Kartoffelråd(Denmark’s Potato Council) has sponsored new potatoes once a year for the OAPs. And so goes the legend of snaps and new potatoes on Valdemarsdag!
Okay, so where did we get to? We got hitched, started the party off with lots of kissingby all and sundry, enjoyed lashings of good food and wine, and have heard a lot of speeches and joined in the sing-a-long...
Time to sing!
What’s that we can hear in the background? Aaaah, it’s the first notes of “Det er så yndigt at følges ad” – one of the psalms you probably sang in the church…
Det er så yndigt at følges ad for to, som gerne vil sammen være; da er med glæden man dobbelt glad og halvt om sorgen så tung at bære; ja, det er gammen at rejse sammen, når fjederhammen er kærlighed.
“How sweet to travel the road ahead for two desiring to be together, for joy is double when we are wed, and sorrow’s stormwinds much lighter to weather. How sweetly valid to travel married, to travel married when we are carried on wings of love. On wings of love.”
Which means it’s time for the Happy Couple to finally take the floor!
Here’s how it works in Denmark. First the Happy Couple start a slow waltz. Everyone else stands around them in a circle, clapping in time with the music. Then very slowly the guests start moving in, still clapping. This goes on and on until it’s basically a big rugby scrum and the couple are literally unable to move right or left, forwards or backwards.
Wedding traditions apply to Copper and Silver weddings too!
Now, here’s where the really crazy Danishness takes over… Some of the male guests forcibly lift up the groom, who in turn puts on a show of a light struggle. Normally two hold him under the arms while another two hold his feet and another two remove his shoes. Enter onstage left: a person brandishing a pair of scissors! Who proceeds to pull up the toes of the socks. And cuts them off. Chop, chop! Hopefully said scissor-brandishing person is not too inebriated at this point 😉 Everybody holds their breath and hopes for a nice clean cut, with no damage to the groom… Scissor-brandishing person then holds up the sock toes and everyone cheers!
To paint or not to paint? That is the question!
Now here comes Danish craziness number two. The Bridesgroom knows selvfølgelig that there is a 99% chance that his sock toes are going to be cut off. (On a side note, this is obviously this is not the day to wear your expensive Christian Dior ones.) And he may want to turn the tables on the guests. Often the sock-toe-cutting episode reveals…that the Bridesgroom has painted his toenails black. Or each toenail has a different colour! 😉
And the point of this sock-toe-cutting tradition? To stop the husband being unfaithful, apparently. In the old days a Dane would only have one pair of boots and socks. Unsuspecting maidens would be able to tell if he was married man, as soon as he took his boots off… Ha! (Maybe that’s also why Danish people take off their shoes at the door?)
By the way – it’s the same procedure at Copper Weddings and Silver weddings, so beware!
Tomorrow – 5 June – is Grundlovsdag (Danish Constitution Day).
So the Danes will be…um, well actually, most Danes will be going about their business as usual! 😉
Yes, even though those crazy Danes have more traditions than you can shake a very large flagstang at, I have yet to meet a Dane who actually celebrates Grundlovsdag. (Though it’s selvfølgelig celebrated around the globe by expat Danes and all those claiming Viking descent.) What, surely we’ll have bonfires? Nope, no bonfires. You’ll have to wait until Sankt Hans (St John’s Eve – Midsummer) at the end of the month for those…
Skt Hans bonfire, Svendborg, 23 June 2012
But surely there’ll be god mad (good food). And a nice cold øl (beer)? Or two? Nope.
Nothing beats a "stjerneskud" and a nice, cold Carlsberg!
But surely we’ll get the day off? It’s a normal working day for many Danes. Not an official public holiday. Though banks and councils usually add it in to their holiday calendar, so most of their offices will be closed. But the council binmen will still come and uplift your rubbish – it’s a normal day for them. Won’t the shops be closed? Some are closed – but not all. And while nurseries and kindergartens are closed, my kids are in school – boo! Confused? You will be! Though one thing is sure – the buses will be flying Dannebrog – the Danish flag…
Grundlovsdag is an official flag day
So it’s basically just an ordinary day then? A day off for some, but no special traditions. Yep, you got it.
But, hey, hang on a minute. Isn’t 5 June also Farsdag (Danish Fathers’ Day)? Yep, but (thankfully?!) the Danes don’t really celebrate that either!
Okay, folks, nothing to see here, move along now and let’s get back to work! And join me next time for more on Danish Wedding traditions!