The House of Denmark is host to a number of get-togethers celebrating Danish culture and heritage. These are some of our recurring events.
Fastelavn is the Danish version of carnival. It evolved from the Catholic tradition of having a feast before the start of Lent, but today it is not associated with religion. It takes place seven weeks before Easter Sunday and is a bit like a Nordic Halloween in that children dress up in costumes and get treats.
We love celebrating fastelavn in San Diego where costumes don’t have to allow for freezing temperatures. Children play a traditional game called slå katten af tønden (“beat the cat out of the barrel”) in which they hit a candy filled wooden barrel with a picture of a cat on it, piñata style. After the candy pours out, the game continues until the barrel is entirely broken.
We also eat a wonderful traditional pastry and make a special craft for the season.
Sankt Hans is the Danish midsummer celebration. It dates back to long before Denmark became Christian, and Danes don’t regard it as religious, but because of the early influence of the church, it is named for Saint John the Baptist, Sankt Hans in Danish.
Sankt Hans is a very good excuse to stay up late, have fun, and light bonfires. On June 23rd, every Dane will be looking for somebody with whom they can sing the traditional midsummer song and make snobrød (bread baked on a stick over a fire).
Our juletræsfest is a typical Danish Christmas party with traditional foods (pork roast, red cabbage, candied potatoes), a prize for the person who finds the whole almond in the dessert, dancing around the Christmas tree, and lots of songs. Santa usually manages to stop by and deliver presents to the children.
Coffees, Pot Lucks, and Craft Parties
Over the course of the year, we get together a few times for a cup of coffee (or other beverage) and some Danish pastries (or other Danish specialties). Often, these events also offer an opportunity to create the crafts and decorations that Danes love to make for their holidays.
Danish constitution day, called grundlovsdag, is June 5th. Danes often mark it with political speeches and picnics. At the House of Denmark, we have traditionally hosted the entertainment on the lawn in the International Village on the Sunday closest to grundlovsdag. This is our chance to perform for the guests at the park. We also serve traditional Danish foods that day.
During the first weekend in December, the House of Denmark participates in Balboa Park’s huge annual Holiday festival known as December Nights. For two days, the International Village becomes home to an international food mecca where all sorts of specialties from around the world are offered. At the House of Denmark, we make “æbleskiver”, which resemble spherical pancakes. We also serve homemade hot mulled wine in the adjacent spirit garden.