Tag Archives: celebrations

fun ride celebration

This is How we Party

Parties and celebrations are a mainstay of all cultures. They are what bring friends and families together, villages and nations. They are what we look forward to when we want to have fun. However, the way we have fun is where the differences start! We have already written about Danish festivities with family and friends. But what about village festivities?

Rotunda of Mosta

I come from Malta, where village feasts are a big deal. The feasts there are connected to the feast of the local saint (or saints), with each village typically celebrating the feast of two saints for a week each year. During the feast week there are band marches, decorated streets and churches (remember that these are religious feasts first and foremost) and fireworks – LOTS of fireworks, both aerial and ground fireworks. There is often ongoing rivalry between different feasts in the same village or nearby towns, which means that the festivities often get bigger every year as they try and outdo each other.

Coming from this background I consider such feasts and festivals to be a time when the people from a town or village really get together to organise the best party they can. Every day during the feast week people are on the streets of the village walking and talking to each other, visiting each other and just enjoying the atmosphere. The aim is to see people and be seen. It is like a family party, just on a bigger scale!

In Sonderborg, however, the village celebrations seem to be organised from a slightly different perspective. Sonderborg has two main village celebrations each year, none of which are connected to any religious event. First there is the Byfest, or town festival, during the Ascension weekend. The Ringridning festival, or Tilting-at-the-Rings festival, is then at the beginning of July.

fun ride celebration

Unlike in Malta, these festivities do not seem to be centred around people meeting and talking to each other as the primary aim. The byfest is organised by sport-related societies in order to raise money. On visiting the byfest I was very surprised to see funfair rides and stalls as the main focus point of the feast. It seemed that the point of the celebration was to get people to do stuff (and, of course, pay for stuff).

The Ringridning celebration is slightly different. This appears to be the main village festivity, although it is first and foremost a tilting at the rings competition that has developed into a colourful and joyful celebration that has spilled over to people in the area. Again there are funfair rides on the grounds, though this is not the main focus.


So what are my feelings?

I, of course, have grown up with the Maltese style of village celebrations, so that is what I expect and think of first and foremost when I think of village celebrations. I must admit I left the byfest feeling sad, missing the camaraderie of Maltese feasts, where the entertainment (fireworks, decorations, band marches) are all occurring on the streets, free for everyone to enjoy. I missed feeling that as a inhabitant of Sonderborg this is MY feast as well, rather than a spectator enjoying a show, or someone who is an easy target for being made to spend money on the rides.

Of course, not everyone agrees with me. Just as I am a foreigner living in Denmark, there are foreigners living in Malta. And one of them has written a blog post about village feasts in Malta. Do go over and read what her opinion is! Let’s just say that her and I don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on this topic ;).

Lighted church photo by Michael Camilleri

Funfair photo by Linda Cronin.

Danish flags and kagemand

Elements of a Danish Celebration

Danes love their celebrations (as probably everyone does). However, there are certain elements that you won’t necessarily be familiar with. These are some of those elements that I was not used to before.

1.Danish Flags

Danish flags are a prerequisite of almost any celebration in Denmark. Danes go all out with them especially if it is your birthday: you will raise the flag on the flagpole you inevitably have outside your house, you neighbours will raise the Dannebrog as well, and at home and in the office you will raise a small flag on a small flagpole you inevitably have around the house.

Magnus blowing the birthday lights

That’s not all! If you receive a birthday card expect the envelope to be decorated with tiny Danish flag stickers, and do not be surprised if the card itself is a drawing of the Danish flag. If you have a party expect tiny cocktail sticks with Danish flags decorating most of the dishes, and numerous flags all over the tables. It’s an understatement to say that you cannot have a birthday without a Danish flag (and no – if you are foreign you will probably still get the Danish flag for you party! Or at least that is what I have got so far).

2. Hand Shaking

Any Danish party starts with a prerequisite round of hand shaking, where as you arrive you shake the hand of everyone already there and then stand at the end of the line waiting to shake the hand of all new arrivals. I have been told a number of strategies to deal with this: either arrive early so you do not have to do much walking, or arrive late so you do not have to do much standing. In any case, beware if the crowd is mainly big burly farmers. You hand will be the worse for wear.

Oh, and by the way, this is all repeated as you are leaving!

3. When do I Sit Down?

In case you arrived early and are done with standing around, can you go to your chair and sit down? Oh no you don’t!

When it becomes time to get to your (invariably) chairs and tables, don’t you dare sit down immediately! Protocol dictates that you wait for everyone to find their chair (probably you need to hunt down a seating plan first if it is a bigger party), stand behind it, and wait for the party host to give the word. If you unknowingly try to sit down early, you will be promptly jerked back by your neighbour. Don’t-even-dare!

4. Speeches and Such

No Danish gathering is complete without a speech or two (or 25!). The speeches invariably consist of memories the speechmaker has with the speech receiver(s). Tears are optional.

If you are not much of a speechmaker, however, do not despair! Instead of a speech you can commission any of numerous songwriters to write a special song for the special person on a well-known tune. Do not expect the song to rhyme much, or if it rhymes don’t expect the metric to fit the tune. All you need to do then is to get someone to start off the song, and off they go! struggling through the song like pros.

5. Birthday: Kagemand

A cake is a common feature in most birthday celebrations around the world. Denmark, however, gives you the cake man! The cake, especially for young kids, has to be in the shape of a man (or woman), regardless of what it is made of. I have seen him made as a biscuit, a sponge cake, even open sandwiches! The emphasis here is on the man. Who cares about cake?