Interactions with Danish Culture and Traditions

Emma_Cripe_Summer2Name: Emma Cripe
Home University:
Northwestern University
Summer Session 2 Course:
Emerging Markets
Summer Session 3 Course:
Windmills Constructed: Energy in Scandinavia

Volunteering at CPH Stage

Before coming to Copenhagen, I knew that I wanted to volunteer, it’s a great way to help out in my new community and meet some Danes, and so I signed up through CphVolunteers. This past weekend, I volunteered in the café at a theater festival called CPH Stage – Teaterøen. All of the other volunteers were Danes and it was great to work with them all day!

In the café, I cooked food with three other Danes that we later served to the festival attendees and the performers. We made lentil soup, focaccia bread, and brownies for dessert! I was really surprised at how similar these dishes were to what we cook at home, for some reason it never occurred to me that ordinary dishes are cooked here (not just the smørrebrød and other traditional foods I’ve tried).

Throughout the day, people spoke Danish to me several times. I like to think that I’m starting to look like a local (maybe it’s all the black I’m wearing), but that’s probably not the case. Everyone I met was really friendly and was interested in where I was from and what I was studying in Copenhagen. Although it was a long day of volunteering, when I finished my 7-mile bike ride back to my kollegium, I felt more like a Copenhagener, rather than just a visitor in this city!

Sankt Hans Aften

June 23rd was Sankt Hans Aften (St. John’s Eve). The Danish Midsummer Festival is named after John the Baptist and is celebrated the night before his birthday. According to legends, the summer solstice is a night when all of the witches fly to the mountains in Northern Germany. So the Danes, in order to keep the witches away, light bonfires all across the country! These aren’t just ordinary bonfires though; they have a wooden/straw witch in them with screaming firecrackers to make it sound like the witch is screaming during her death. Quite eerie, but it was a really cool tradition to be a part of!

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I went to the Sankt Hans Aften celebration at Nyhavn. When I got there, there was a Danish band playing. Then a man gave about a 10 minute speech in Danish, I’m assuming it was about the tradition/legend of this night. The fire was lit and the band led the packed crowd in traditional songs about Sankt Hans. It was really cool to hear all of the normally reserved Danes singing along. I’m glad I got to experience this traditional Midsummer festival at one of my favorite places in the city!

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