New in Denmark

Spring fever? Hay fever!

Hope you all had a nice Easter?  The weather here was fantastic – sunny and (mostly) dry.  My tootsies even got their first airing in flipflops!

Everything is blooming in the garden and I’ve been weeding, pruning and potting like crazy… 

People are out on their bikes, scooters, skateboards, waveboards and pennyboards. Or how about the old gent I spied this morning on the cycle path, who was kicking it old school style on rollerblades! :D

It’s now open season for schoolkids to be out in the forests and parks for gym class and sports day.  This lucky class got the extra “pleasure” of watching me and my winterbathing buddies take our skinny dip this morning! ;)

Yep, big and small, everyone is out and about.  Seeing the ‘crocodile’ of kids from the local nursery on their morning walk always brings a tear to my eye!

But talking of teary eyes…  All this fabulous weather means that pesky pollen is having a riot! And on Monday we had a new Danish record for birch.  4,696.  Yikes!  My poor DDH (dear Danish husband) and DS14 (dear son, 14) have been suffering for days.  I don’t have allergies as such, but that dang pollen affects my asthma and makes my nose run…  Pass the hankies, please!

Have a [blows nose] wonderful Wednesday!

Diane :)

Celebrating Easter 2014: Beer and Bonnets


Right now, stores across Denmark are being emptied of their foodstuff as though a famine will hit the land for 5 days. Shrimp, salmon and leverpostej (liverpaste) and of course, beer, is nearly wiped out…..

I gave that introduction in 2013 as I shared about the Easter holiday in Denmark and the traditions that take place in Denmark and for me in the USA around this high holy time in the life of the Christian Church and community. It is still the same and you can read about how quiet it becomes in Denmark as Danes happily flee work and winter to gather themselves with their families and the country shuts down for lots of Easter beer (Påskebrg) and wine-drinking, fish and leverpostej (liverpaste) eating and time to relax. Everything, it seems, shuts down.

Many of my Danish friends and American friends married to Danes, who live on on Zealand very much look forward to this time because they can go visit their relatives in Jutland and spend time out in nature. It is a beautiful time to spend on the western coast of Jutland, where the winds are not too high right now and you can walk along the shore as well as through fields. I also recommend you get to North Jutland to places such as Skagen and see what there is to see (and there is plenty)

Me? I am enjoying Easter with friends. Easter egg dying (followed by hiding them, and finding them). Making a special Easter sweet honeybread with a dyed egg in the center. Easter baskets full of sugared goodies. And tomorrow, I will put on my new Easter dress (navy blue with white polka dots), with complementary shoes, sweater and finally, my new Easter bonnet (hat). Then, off to church for the Easter celebration service and afterwards, home, to have a special Easter lunch with friends.

The Easter bonnet or hat is a favorite part of Easter for me. Everything is fresh and new and a new hat makes it extra especially so. I have observed that this is how Danes feel about the Easter beer or Påskebryg that is produced each year. It comes with a few days to enjoy it without rushing, good food, and with family around to enjoy time away from the regular routine. I have still not heard Danes tel me that there is much spiritual significance to Easter for them, but rather that like Christmas, it is a family gathering time around food and drink and culturally that is of extremely high importance to them. The death and resurrection of Jesus is more coincidental to the holiday.

I am cooking a traditional American Easter meal of roasted lamb with mint sauce, freshly made spring potato salad as well as roasted potatoes, and green beans to be washed down with cider and for dessert a strawberry and cream pie. There will be much feasting, drinking, laughter and conversation and we have Easter Monday free to revive ourselves for work.

To all who observe Easter and Passover at this time of year in Denmark, I wish you great peace and joy. To those living in Denmark who do not observe Easter or Passover in Denmark, I urge you to move out of the way of the tumbleweeds as they blow across the deserted streets!

Denmark is closing for Easter! Buy! Buy! Buy!

If you’re new to Denmark, then you had better stop frittering away your time on the internet.  Get out RIGHT NOW and stock up!  Yep, the Danes celebrate Easter in big style and the country will basically shut down on Wednesday night.  Despite being very low-key about religion, Denmark will be closed Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.  Completely closed.  Imagine that…the shops are closed for more days than over Christmas!  Schools, council offices and businesses are also closed. Libraries and post offices too (plus don’t expect to receive mail or parcels).  Museums, your local swimming pool and fitness club may have special opening hours. Buses and trains may be running on ‘holiday’ schedules.  Check before you head out!  And the streets are deserted…  Easter is not the time to visit Denmark! ;)

So you have to do your grocery shopping NOW.  Stock up big time. And if possible, avoid Wednesday – that’s the biggest shopping day of the year aside from the last shopping days before Christmas.  Pretty amazing when you consider that people are only buying food and drink – not a Christmas present in sight!  If you forget to stock up, you’ll need to hop over the Sound to Sweden (they’re open for business as usual on Thursday).  Or prepare to run the gauntlet on Saturday.

And what do the Danes actually do on all these holy holidays?

Well, they don’t go to church, that’s for sure (they save that for Christmas.)  No, Easter is the time to eat, drink and be merry with family or friends.  To get out in the garden.  And get the garden furniture out (if you didn’t do it when we changed to summertime on 30 March) .  Do some DIY.  Get busy down at the allotment or open up your summer house and hope for fantastic spring weather…

Me?  I’ll be doing a mixture of the above: a bit of gardening, an Easter egg hunt and friends coming to stay.  Lots of eating and drinking.  So I’m already stocked up with the Danish Easter essentials.  And what do the Danes eat?  Lamb selvfølgelig.  Lots of påskebryg (Easter beer) and snaps.  And the ubiquitous array of foods that you will see at Danish lunches (see my Christmas Advent Calendar post). Rejer (prawns), sild (herring), varm leverpostej (hot liverpâté), various meats like flæskesteg (roast pork) and rullepølse (rolled pork),  One of my own faves is tarteletter (tart cases filled with a mixture of chicken and asparagus).  Look here for more about them.

Get them while they're hot!

There’ll be lots of cheese.  Dainty biscuits and chocolates/chocolate eggs.  Or you might want to serve this yummy Danish mazarinkage (marcipan cake).  Takes only 5 minutes to put together if you have a kitchen mixer!  My recipe is here.

And now?  Let us pray.  And hope the Danish weather gods are with us! 

Skål!  God Påske!

Diane  :)

Traveling Denmark!

A beautful sunny day of pink cherry blossoms at the annual Sakura Festival on Langeline Pavilion near Nord Toldbold buildings on Copenhagen Harbor. Photo Copyright: Barrett Clemmensen Powell.

Recently a Danish newspaper noted that Danes do a terrible job of promoting Denmark to the outside world. They do not see that Denmark has anything of value or interest to people outside Denmark. Those of us who are in the international community in Denmark can well believe the results of this survey because as part of a very irritating and repetitive series of personal questions that  we call “The Immigration Interview”, Danes often ask us to explain why we  come to Denmark.

Rather than answer the question now, I counter with the statement, “You should be proud of the beautiful places there are in Denmark, don’t you think?

A Danish friend who knows the length and breadth of my experiences in Denmark (meaning they have not been all strawberries and cream), also recently had a lovely conversation with me after being surprised to find that not even negative experiences in Denmark could take away my spirit of adventure and my love of Denmark because I have seen and experienced so much of Denmark, from one corner to another.

Reading this recent survey made me think that perhaps I should share some of my experiences of Denmark, gained from the moment I set foot on its soil. I have seen a lot of Denmark and I am very intentional about getting around. I kow many internationals, whether expatriate or not, who have not been outside of Greater Copenhgaen, Aarhus or Odense. That STUNS me. Within my first month in Denmark I was traveling around Zealand. Within 3 months I was in a place in Denmark that has become my absolute favorite and which I will share with you in soon in words and photos. In fact, I will share several of my Danish adventures.

So, fasten your seatbelt and let’s get ready to travel Denmark, my home-away-from-home!

Gæk, gæk, gæk? Guess your way to an Easter egg!

My kids will be on Easter break from Friday.  Woo hoo – no more pesky packed lunches for the next week!  (For them, school restarts Tuesday 22 April.)

And that – selvfølgelig – means it’s time for a traditional Danish Easter craft: making a gækkebrev - a secret snowdrop letter!  For which we’ll need a vintergæk (snowdrop).  Though - as we’re well into April - Danish snowdrops have basically gone into hiding again, so we may need to improvise.  Now, did you know that gækkebreve are a purely Danish tradition?  I thought it was a Scandinavian thing.  But no.  It’s a crazy Dane thing.  And right now, as I type, little kids all over Denmark are sitting at home (or nursery, school, the museum or local library) cutting holes in paper and drawing lots of dots.  All in the hope of getting a chocolate Easter egg!  More on the logistics of that later in the post…  First up, let’s get making one! :)

You’ll need:

  • white and coloured paper
  • glue or a gluestick
  • a pair of scissors
  • a snowdrop 

Choose a coloured piece of paper for your paper ‘doily’. Fold it in half, then in half again.  Draw a rough shape and cut out.  If you’ve never done this kind of thing before, keep it simple!  The Danes are world-famous for their intricate papercutting.  Hans Christian Andersen (you know, the one who wrote ”The Ugly Duckling”, “The Little Match Girl”, “The Princess and the Pea”, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, “Thumbelina” etc, etc, etc…) was also an expert at papercutting.  I’ve only lived here for 16 years, so I’m still learning…

Open up up the paper and you should have something that looks like this.

Stick it on to a plain white piece of paper. I used a gluestick.  And it’s fine if it isn’t perfectly stuck down all over – it just gives it an even better 3d effect ;)

Then you’re ready to write a little poem on it.

Henne bag ved havens hæk, fandt jeg denne vintergæk.
Hej, min hvide lille ven, nu er turen din igen.
Du skal gå til min ven, hviske så kan kan forstå,
han må gætte prikke små, for et påskeæg at få!

But if your family and friends aren’t Danish, you’ll probably want one in English, right? Try this one for size:

Snowdrop, snowdrop, snowdrop fine,
Omen true of hope divine,
From the heart of winter bring
Thy delightful hope of spring.
Guess my name I humbly beg.
Your reward: An Easter-Egg.
Let these puzzling dots proclaim
Every letter in my name

Now listen carefully.  [I shall say this only once...]  At the bottom of the gækkebrev, DON’T sign your name.  You draw a large dot for every letter of your name.  So my name, Diane, would be  . . . . .    If the person who receives the letter guesses who it comes from, you have to give them an Easter egg.  But if they can’t guess, they have to give you an Easter egg.  So disguise your handwriting and be creative!  I usually put in three dots for M.U.M.!  ;)

The final touch is to pick a snowdrop from your garden – just draw one if need be - add it to the letter and send to a friend or loved one.   And keep your fingers crossed that they don’t guess who it’s from…


God Påske!  Happy ……!

Diane :)