Danish Culture...

Grundlovfest Danish meatball Sankt Hans Bon-Fire Danish Christmas tree Christmas dinner Tapered Christmas Candle US flag

...Cooking, Food, Holidays, and Language

Danish Brotherhood in America (DBIA) Lodge #167 ... Danish Sisterhood (DSS), Mt. Hood Lodge #81


Danes eat very well, by American standards. Common Danish expressions, "No one ever dies of starvation in Denmark" and "Never trust a skinny Danish cook" underscore a land where culinary excellence and elegance are twin attributes of daily fare.

Tender loving care spent on Danish cooking is repaid by elegant taste, texture, and appearance. A true Danish cook will spend much time in preparation as well as cooking. Top ingredients are essentials, cost is not a factor, and cutting corners is not an option. Hence, Danish cookery is as far removed from American fast food and "instant-everything" as you can get, but the rewards are enormous.

Denmark is a farming nation as well as a seafaring nation (MAP). Whatever the Danes can grow or catch, they cook, and do so with style and flair.


The traditional Danish "cold table" (or koldt bord) is actually a buffet of appetizer, cheese, and "smørrebrød." The "smørrebrød" is the famous Danish open-faced half-sandwich (PHOTO). A true "smørrebrød" has toppings that must hang over the side so that no bread shows (PHOTO). The bread (rye, pumpernickel, or white) is thinly sliced and cut in half, buttered, then piled with lettuce, meats (herring, oysters, anchovies, crab, shrimp, sardines, salmon, folded roast beef, liver paté, or lamb) and cheeses (havarti, samsø, danbo, esrom, Danish mynster, tybo, and/or danablu- danish blue cheese), then topped with garnishes (onion rings, radish slices, deviled eggs, cucumbers, chives, olives, tomato slices, fresh fruit, parsely, etc.). The variety of combinations is endless (PHOTO). These little sandwiches are eaten with a knife and fork and not by hand.

Salads are highly varied, eye-catching, savory, and sensational. Vegetables are an integral part of a meal, especially red cabbage (slowly simmered) and potatoes.

Traditional meats include veal, duck, cod, shrimp, pork, and goose. The "frikadeller" are the very popular Danish meat balls (PHOTO). Sauces are meant to complement, and not cover, Danish entrees. Soups are varied (with split pea and ham a popular choice) and are good winter time dishes.

For pastries, forget the nasty stuff you see in American stores-- for that is not 'danish.' The 'real-deal' is called "Kringle" (PHOTO). Danish Kringle is a very big pretzel-like pastry that literally melts in your mouth. Fillings can be maple-pecan (PHOTO), almond, apple, or cherry. One Kringle sliced up makes a dozen servings. DBIA #167 sells Kringle (boxes or individual servings) to the public each year during the annual Scan-Fair event at PSU (first weekend in December).

The other famous Danish pastry is the "Æbleskiver" or pancake ball. Æbleskiver are cooked in a special pan (PHOTO) that can make seven at a time and are served hot-- topped with lingonberry jam or applesauce and whip cream (PHOTO).

The traditional Danish wedding cake (also used for other celebrations) is called "Kransekage" and is a tower of almond-paste cookie rings (PHOTO). DSS #81 sells "Kransekage-Stykker" (Kransekage in sections) to the public each year during the annual Scan-Fair event.


It is no secret that Danes like their alcohol. "Akvavit" is very popular. This clear "vodka of the north" is distilled from potatoes or grains and can be as potent as Russian vodka. The Aalborg brand is among the best in Denmark (PHOTO). During winter, and especially Christmas, a favorite Danish drink, guaranteed to warm you, is called "Gløgg" and is a steaming concoction of hot Burgundy wine, aquavit, cinnamon, cloves, raisins, and slivers of almonds. Tuborg Gold Beer is very popular (PHOTO). Another popular Danish drink is Peter Herring liqueur-- a cherry flavored liquid velvet that is as colorful as it tastes. Non-alcoholic drinks include Ruby-Red Punch (cranberry juice, raspberry sherbet, lemon juice, and ginger ale) and Apple Shrub (lime sherbet and apple cider).

It is Danish tradition to raise one's glass, say "Skaal" (usually with great conviction!), drink up, and say "Ah!" as you set the glass down. Sometimes drink songs accompany the "Skaal" toast.


"Fastelavn" (Danish Mardi Gras): Seven weeks before Easter Sunday. Children dress up in costume (PHOTO) and go door to door in search of candy. At parties, children take turns with a stick to "knock the cat out of the barrel", like a Danish pinata (PHOTO). The first boy and girl to break the barrel, and spill the candy, is crowned King and Queen.

"Påske": Week-long celebration of Easter Day, from Passover, to Good Friday, then Easter Monday.

Queen Margrethe II Birthday: April 16th. Royality and commoners alike celebrate a popular monarch (PHOTO).

Laborer Day: May 1st. Danish Labor Day is not an official holiday.

"Frihedsdagen": May 5th. The day Denmark was liberated from Nazi occupation in 1945.

"Mors Dag" (Mothers Day): Second Sunday in May, the same as in the United States.

"Grundlovs Dag": June 5th. The Danish Constitution was signed in 1849 by King Frederik VII (most important secular holiday) and celebrations are common (PHOTO).

"Kr. Himmelfarts Dag" (Ascension Day): Forty days after Easter.

"Pinse" (Pentecost): Seven weeks after Easter (in Denmark, two holidays).

"Fars Dag" (Fathers Day): Third Sunday in June. This holiday originated in Denmark in 1937 and was adopted by the United States and Great Britain, the only other countries to do so.

"Sankt Hans Dag": June 23rd. Summer solstice and Mid-summer food and musical celebration all across Scandinavia, a 500-year old tradition, culminating in a big bon-fire (Photo1) that "sends the Witches off to Bloksbjerg." (Photo2)

American Independence Day: July 4th. At Rebild National Park (north Jutland), the largest Fourth-of-July celebration outside the United States is held each year (PHOTO).

"Mortensaften": November 10th. Feast of St. Martin, traditional goose dinner.

Christmas season: December 1st - 24th. Hans Christian Andersen once said, "A full-blown Danish Christmas is quite unforgettably magnificent" and requires major labor. Children light a tall calendar candle (PHOTO), burning the first of 24 sections that mark the days leading up to Christmas. The house is decorated early in the month with mobiles, candles, garlands, and tinsel. The most famous of all Danish decorations, a paper heart interwoven with red and white (PHOTO), is unique to Denmark.

"Lillejuleaften": December 23rd. The Night Before Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve: December 24th. The Traditional Dinner (roast goose or duck or pork, trimmings of apples and/or prunes, rice pudding, candied potatoes, red cabbage, currant jelly) is served (PHOTO). After dinner, the family waits in darkness until the doors are flung open to reveal the candle-lit Christmas tree (Photo1) (Photo2). Christmas Carols are sung before presents are opened, which are followed with more sweets, fruits, and nuts.

New Years Eve: December 31st. The Traditional Dinner (boiled cod and mustard sauce, etc.), followed by games (and sometimes fireworks). At midnight, the Christmas tree candles are lit for the last time and traditional songs are sung as bells ring in the new year.


Danish is a beautiful language that few outsiders have heard. The Danish alphabet has three extra letters in addition to "A - Z", which are "Æ", "Ø", and "Å". There are some Danish words that are identical to English words. In some cases, the word or pronunciation is slightly different than an English word (example, banana is "banan"). Important words to always remember include "Hilsen" (greetings) and "Tak" (thank you). A recent 2-minute "You-Tube" clip gives a good example of Danish: the Danish Birthday Song (DBS). Click here to listen: DBS

Last, but not least, is the beautiful Danish National Anthem. Click here to read the DNA

New!...If you want to hear this beautiful Anthem, then click here: DNA-YouTube

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