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Danish Traditions

Sankt Hans Denmark | Danish Traditions | Wild West Viking
Danish Traditions

Sankt Hans – Danish Summer Solstice

This year the summer solstice, otherwise known as Midsummer’s Eve, is celebrated on Thursday, June 23, 2022. The summer solstice is is the longest day and shortest night of the year, and celebrated with pagan customs, traditions, song, and of course, food & drink! Since the time of the Vikings, Sankt Hans has been a huge celebration to mark midsummer.

On this night, there were magical forces of curating healing herbs and seeking out sacred springs, bonfires to ward off evil witches. The summer solstice was celebrated as a fertility festival with several customs and rituals connected with nature, the wish for good fortune, as well the hope for a fertile harvest in the autumn. The Vikings visited sacred springs to drink the water or bathe in it to heal diseases, and had bonfires as protection to ward against evil spirits and negativity. When Denmark became Christianized in the 10th century, the midsummer solstice also became Sankt Hans Aften a celebration the birthday of Saint John the Baptist (i.e., Sankt Hans).

As a child I remember the bonfires being held at the big park behind my school where there was a straw witch affixed to the top of the bonfire. You really can’t get more pagan than that which was especially weird since I went to a catholic school! As the bonfire was lit, there was something in the witch that let off a scream (could have also been my imagination), and as the fire burned brightly, and the ashes rose to the skies. Apparently the story goes that when the witch has burned she flies to Bloksbjerg, Germany, where a witch-gathering was believed to be held.

Many people gather at the beach, watching the sunset, enjoying food and drink (akvavit of course), and while the warmth of the bonfire keeps everyone cozy, and the fireworks light up the sky, you’ll hear Danes singing the traditional song “Vi Elsker Vort Land” (We love our country) written by Holger Drachman in 1885. This declaration of love to the midsummer season is the patriotic anthem of the holiday – however also most famously also sung is the Shu-bi-dua song “Midsommersangen”.

This holiday is also a good excuse to stay up late, eat, drink, enjoyed the coziness (the hygge) of gathering around a warm fire, dance and have fun with friends and family! As much of a happy holiday this is, it is also a little bittersweet knowing that the days will slowly become shorter, and the summer nights a little longer.

There are many places around Copenhagen where they have large displays and parties. For my family and I, we will enjoy a smaller bonfire in our backyard with our fire pit however will be celebrating with a divine Summer Solstice menu!

One item I am looking forward to making is something called “Snobrød”, otherwise known as twisted bread made by using a simple and easy dough recipe. Then you find a stick in the woods, and twist the dough around a stick, and “bake” it using only the best embers around the bonfire. Seriously, what could be more “hygge” than that! A perfect “Snobrød” is crispy on the outside, and hot, soft and fluffy on the inside.

Cocktails & Beverages

  • Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Aqvavit Spritz
  • Carlsberg

Appetizers

  • Smoked Salmon on Toast Points
  • Tuna Mousse with Red Caviar

Main Course

  • Meatballs with lingonberry

Cheese Board

  • Selection of danish cheese, red peppers, radishes, grapes, viking bread, and WASA crackers.

Dessert

  • Strawberry Tarte
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Aebleskiver | Danish Pancake Balls | Wild West Viking
Christmas, Danish Traditions, Dessert, Holiday, Recipes

Æbleskiver (Danish Pancake Puffs/Balls)

Æbleskiver | Danish Pancake Balls | Wild West Viking

Æbleskiver (Pancake Puffs or Pancake Balls)

A Danish tradition typically enjoyed around Christmas time (but I think you can enjoy them any time of the year). These puffy Danish pancake balls are sweet delights typically served with powdered sugar and strawberry jam, although I have elevated them slightly this time with boozy strawberry coulis. Æbleskiver literally translates to apple slices, although we don't add these into the batter. You do need a special Æbleskiver pan (see below).
These are perfect for breakfast, afternoon tea, or a sweet after dinner treat.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine Danish

Equipment

  • 1 Aebleskiver pan
  • Blender
  • Sieve or fine mesh strainer

Ingredients
  

Æbleskiver

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 eggs, yolks and whites separated.
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • powdered sugar
  • strawberry jam

Boozy Strawberry Coulis

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 12 oz frozen strawberries, thawed
  • 1 tbsp Grand Marnier (orange liqueur)

Instructions
 

Prepare Æbleskiver

  • Beat egg yolks, add sugar, salt, buttermilk, flour, baking soda and baking powder.
  • Beat egg whites until slightly stiffened.
  • Add egg whites to flour mixture.
  • Melt butter, place Æbleskiver pan on stove on medium heat. Brush butter into each hole. Ladle mixture into each hole about ¾ full. Cook about 2 minutes, and then turn carefully over on the other side (I use a wooden tool some people use a knitting needle), trying to spill some of the mixture into the hole as you are turning to make the pancake puff a little fluffy. Continue turning until the balls turn a nice golden color and are cooked all the way through.
  • Keep warm until ready to serve.

Prepare Coulis

  • Combine sugar and water in a small sauce pot over medium heat. Stir to combine and until mixture is thickened. Remove from heat.
  • Combine frozen strawberries and sugar syrup in a blender, and blend until mixture is smooth and pureed.
  • Pour puree over sieve over a medium sized bowl. Stir and push mixture into bowl until all liquid has been pushed through.
  • Add liqueur to mixture (if wanted). Stir to combine well.
  • Store in fridge for 5-7 days or freezer for 2-3 months.
Keyword aebleskiver, Danish Christmas, Danish food, pancake balls, pancake puffs, Sweet Treats
  • Aebleskive Pan : This is the pan that I have and have used for years. You can use a cast iron pan as well, but this one is very easy to use.
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Danish Christmas Traditions | Wild Wst Viking
Christmas, Danish Traditions, Holiday

Danish Christmas Traditions

It’s the first day of December and Christmas has arrived! This is undoubtedly my favorite time of year. The twinkling lights, the smell of fresh evergreens, spiced cookies, flickering of candles and of course the little nisse (elf-like creatures) and above all . . . the hygge!!

Throughout this season, I will be adding my 24-day countdown, just like we have on our advent calendar! Only this will be a countdown of my favorite Christmas traditions!

1st Day of December

On the 1st of December Christmas brings us . . . .the mischievous elf-like creatures called ‘julenisse’ or ‘nisse’.

These somewhat temperamental little troublemakers must be treated with respect and kept in good spirits throughout the season. To the right is a photo of my daughter’s “nissepige” (nisse-girl). She’s made by Birgitte Frigast. This little nisse appears every 1st of December bringing little gifts on the advent calendar, one for each day leading up to Christmas Eve.

In the “old” days, nisse were considered the protectors of a household or farmstead and help the farmers with small chores around the farm. There are different variations of nisser, some old, some young, all with pointed red hats, some are grumpy and some are happy, Luckily we have always had the happy ones in our house!

In our family, we make sure to keep the nisser happy as we do want them making any naughty problems, so we give them a little bowl of “risengrød” (rice porridge), with a little sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and a pat of butter on top. This all happens on the 23rd of December (stay tuned)!


2nd Day of December

The 2nd day of December brings the Countdown Candle (or as we call it in Danish . . . Kalenderlys). These candles typically have some kind of Christmas design on them and adorned with numbers from 1-24.

This is such a fun and cozy tradition that brings joy on those dark December mornings in anticipation of Christmas Eve/Day. It’s typical for Danes to have a breakfast candle to soothe their souls on hectic mornings.

As you will soon find out, towards the end of this adventure, candles are a big thing for Danes, and especially here around Christmastime!

This is a total hygge (cozy) aesthetic tradition that you could also start in your house! There’s nothing more comforting than starting and ending the day by candle light, and it’s such a fun way to count down to Christmas!

I love the design of the Georg Jensen candles, or Holmegaard candles, although there are several other stores and online stores that sell them now also here in United States!


3rd Day of December

The 3rd day of December brings the famous Danish woven Christmas hearts. These are made throughout the holiday season, and hung on the Christmas tree and filled with Christmas candies. The hearts are made out of glazed paper, or sometimes fabric. Colors vary, but traditionally they are made with red and white colors, which are of course, the national colors of Denmark. An interesting note is that the woven hearts were said to be created first by the famous H.C. Andersen. The oldest known braided heart, which is actually yellow and green, is on display at the Hans Christian Andersen museum in Odense.

Over the years, some of the designs have become very intricate with extremely creative designs. They also can be made with different colors such as red and green, gold and green, red and gold, and green and gold. You can purchase templates that have already been cut out for you so all you have to do is weave the paper together. This makes the process a little faster and easier!

This is a fun activity to do for both the young and old, and especially delicious to fill with candies!


4th Day of December

The 4th day of Christmas brings one of my favorite Danish Christmas books – “Peters Jul” (Peters Christmas) by Johan Krohn.

This book is comprised of classic poems about heartwarming tales of Christmas time traditions in Denmark during the 1860’s. These poems described as stories of Christmas spirit and traditions, and lots of Christmas joy!

A favorite memory from my childhood is sitting and having this read to me the night before Christmas. Reading the book really does give you the feeling of what it would be like to experience Christmastime in Denmark in the 1860’s, a simple time, but a time full of those timeless Christmas traditions, with family at the center.

This book is both for the young and old, giving a good insight to Christmastime in the 1860’s both culturally and historically. A true Danish Christmas Classic.


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mortensaften
Danish Traditions

Mortensaften (aka Saint Martin’s Eve)

On November 10th, this is the evening where Danes enjoy a delicious roast goose dinner, potatoes and gravy.

Basically, it’s the Danes version of Thanksgiving, at least as far as the feast and celebration of a successful fall harvest goes. As the story goes, Martin of Tours, was a soldier who wanted to become a monk. As he was deeply religious, he was pointed to becoming the next bishop. In order to avoid this honor, he hid in a goose pen, where he was quickly discovered when the geese cackled loudly and gave him away.

So, Martin went on to become the bishop, and later, a Saint, but in never forgetting the betrayal of the goose, he pronounced that goose must be eaten as the main meal on November 10.

Many Danes also look at this day as the end of the harvest, and the beginning of the long winter season.

In later years, goose has been replaced by duck, and this meal could be looked at as a practice run for the Christmas Even dinner as it is very similar.

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Sankt Hans – Danish Summer Solstice
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