Danish Birthday Traditions

As I am writing this it has been exactly one month since I turned twenty, and oh boy has it been exciting turning twenty! … I’m kidding, nothing has changed whatsoever.
But since I went back to Denmark to celebrate my birthday, I thought it could be fun to explain some Danish birthday traditions. Mind you, these may vary in different parts of Denmark and in different families, but these are the ones I grew up with.

1) Flags f**king everywhere!

This tradition is not exclusive to birthday, but flags are wildly used for pretty much every kind of celebration. Weddings, graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
On someone’s birthday, the first thing you do in the morning is hoist up a flag if you own a flag post, which quite a number of people luckily do.
If the person in question is a child, they will likely be woken up with song and maybe also get to open up their presents in bed.

2) Cake!

We have a few different types of cakes used for birthdays, but what they all have in common is this: In some way (be it the shape of the actual cake or the decorations on the cake) the cake must resemble a man or a woman. Because of this a traditional Danish birthday cake is called a “cake man” or “cake woman”.

My yummy birthday cake saying “Congratulations Jannie 20 years old”.

At children’s birthday parties these cakes often have small pieces of sweets on them. Yummy!

Photo number 1. A traditional Danish children’s “cake man”.

Notice all the little flags on the cakes? Yeah, it’s kind of mandatory to have flags on a birthday cake.

Oh, and at children’s birthday parties, the parents will cut the cake’s throat and all the children will scream. And no one finds this weird, for some reason…

For adults, the preferred cake is often a layer cake with typocally 3 layers of sponge. In between the layers will be jam, fruits, custard and a type of macaroon. On top will be whipped cream. There are of course many versions of this cake including a chocolate version, which is absolutely divine!

Photo number 2

3) Songs!

In Denmark we have more than 20 birthday songs. I’ll try to explain some stuff about the two most known and most used ones:

One has 4 verses and people often tend to mess up the order of them and forget either the 2nd or the 3rd verse. It’s amazing how that’s possible, as people have likely sung and heard it a thousand times (!!!).

The other one usually has between 3 and 5 verses, depending on the people singing it. It is basically the same verse repeated over and over again, but the “instrument” changes.
It’s a little difficult to explain, but in the first verse you sing something along the lines of “And hear now how we sing will: Tra la la la...”. This then changes to instruments in the next verses. An example could be drums: “And hear now how we drum will: *Drumming on table or stamping feet in rythm to the music*“. Other instruments could be flute or trumpet.
In the last verse the “instrument” is shouting, and people thus end the song by singing “hurra, hurra, hurra.”
In school your whole class would sing either or both songs to you on your birthday. Isn’t that sweet AF!?

4) Special birthdays!

25 – If you are still unmarried when you turn 25, you are given cinnamon. There have been instansens where people have been tied to lampposts and showered with cinnamon… Luckily in my family we tend to just tie cinnamon sticks to the presents and let that be it.

Photo number 3

30 – If you are still unmarried when you turn 30 you are given pepper. *achoo!*

Photo number 4

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little lesson on Danish birthday traditions. There are of course more and they vary from family to family, but I believe I’ve given you a pretty accurate picture of how most people do things.

Have you got any special traditions regarding birthdays in your family or in your country? Please let me know in the comments, and if you liked this post make sure to like it, and I’ll see you for my next post. Bye!


Photo number 1: A traditional danish Birthday cake man by Malene Thyssen, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Malene
Photo number 2: mydanishkitchen.com

Photo number 3: By Nightflyer (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo number 4: By Hubertl (Own work) [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons



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