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Danish New Year Traditions

New Year’s Eve rituals exist in many parts of the world and Denmark is no different. Here’s a short guide to understanding some of the best-known traditions.

The Queen Margrethe’s New Year’s Eve speech at 6pm signals the beginning of a long and festive night. It’s a live broadcast from Fredensborg Castle, an annual essential that first started with King Christian XI in the 1880s. The Queen takes this opportunity to summarize the year’s main political events, both global and local. The speech always concludes with a salute to the nation with the words “Gud behave Denmark” (God preserve Denmark), which signals the time to begin the meal.

Unlike the calorific Christmas dishes consumed just a few days prior, the New Year’s Eve menu consists of boiled cod, served with home-made mustard sauce and all the trimmings. However, Danes are less traditionally bound to the food when it comes to New Year. So, many Danes prepare exotic and alternative specialities for their New Year’s dinner.

For dessert, the famous Kransefagen, a Danish invention from the 1700s. Like champagne, it is one of the fixed elements of New Year’s Eve. It’s a towering cake made from layer-upon-layer of marzipan rings. The cake’s turret-like shape promises happiness and wealth for the coming year.

Just before midnight, many Danes gather in front of the television to watch a short movie in black and white from 1963 called “90-års fødselsgaden” (“Dinner for one”, also known as “The 90th Birthday”).

At the midnight countdown, it is a tradition for everyone celebrating indoors to stand on a sofa or a chair and jump into the new year. It symbolizes the hope for better time/eases the transition and then everyone wishes each other a Happy New Year. At this point a choir performs the Danish anthem and the Danish Monarch song.

Shortly afterwards, people gather in the streets to set off fireworks. Danes traditionally celebrate New Year with lots of fireworks. It was only around 1900 that fireworks began to become something that ordinary people could buy. Before that, New Year was celebrated by using guns to fire shots into the air. It was done because of an old belief that loud noises and fireworks keep spirits and negative energies away.

However you decide to celebrate New Year’s Eve, we wish you a very prosperous 2019 from all at Charlie’s Roof!