Eccentric…or just peculiar?
I have written much about Denmark so far. Not all of it has been complimentary, but neither has it been derogatory. At least I hope not. I haven’t been lynched by the Danes or punched in the face by the mayor of Copenhagen, so I think I’ve gotten away with it. I have lived in many countries for varying lengths of time and each has had its own personality, peculiarities and special beauty. i now find myself living in Denmark not out of choice, but because I found work here when it was scarce throughout the rest of Europe. My first stint in the country was for the same reason back in 2006 when I worked in the sleepy west Danish town of Fredericia on the Jutland peninsula – you know…where all the pigs are. Or so they say. That lasted for three months until my visa expired and I was forced to leave the country. Now that I have returned to Denmark and have lived there for eighteen months, I have a better perspective of the place, its personality, peculiarities and beauty. However, it’s the peculiarities that keep coming to my attention.
Take, for example, the Sankthans Festival (Saint John. Hans = Johannes = John) that takes place in mid summer – or what passes for mid summer. This apparently originates as a Scandinavian celebration of the longest day of the year being a battle between light and dark and also heat and cold. They always marked the celebration by lighting large bonfires, but it was mostly an excuse to eat, drink and indulge in ‘hygge’, the Danish word for all things warm, friendly and cosy. In the late 19th century, so the story goes, the Danish people took to burning the effigy of a witch on the bonfire.This was supposed to send loads of witches on broomsticks over to Bloksberg in Germany. Say what?! Witches on broomsticks? To Germany? Why?!! And why particularly Bloksberg? It’s common knowledge that there’s no love lost between the Danes and their powerful neighbour, Germany, but sending a load of toasted witches over there just seems petty and spiteful. Then again it’s also classic passive aggressive behaviour and from what I’ve seen that’s a large part of the Danish personality. Passive resistance as was demonstrated during World War II. The saving grace for Germany is that at least the witches are crispy by the time they cross the border on their broomsticks, which saves the Germans from having to burn them a second time.
Almost immediately after the Sankthans Festival comes the close of the academic year when University students complete their exams. Now we’ve all see the classic pictures of students throwing their caps into the air after graduation. They may even burn some books and many will get blind drunk in the weeks that follow. Such is the behaviour in the countries where I have lived. I was therefore taken by surprise when sleepy Copenhagen exploded with groups of drunken howling students in various states of undress on the back of trucks being driven around the city with stereo systems pumping out the thumpa-thumpa party beat. The truck horn is sounded almost continuously and this prompts a response from passing motorists who express their solidarity by sounding their own horns. At any one time there are perhaps four or five trucks circling the city blaring out the melange of sound.This all leads to a cacophony that I find to be seriously unsettling. I hasten to add that I have two sons of my own who have gone through the school system and so I’m not averse to the occasional party here or there. We smile and shrug it off as impish youth expressing themselves as only youth can. That would be all well and good if the celebrations in Copenhagen took place on one day of the week and the students then dispersed to do their chores and learn to be good citizens. However, this annoyance continues for an ENTIRE WEEK and into the weekend! AAAARGH!
I have already mentioned the Little Mermaid and other peculiarities of this tranquil and pretty country, but the longer I live here the more strange customs I see. However, the longer I live here, the more I come to love this eccentric, peculiar country and its people as one would come to love an eccentric aunt who lives with twenty cats, hoards newspapers and feeds the pigeons in her back yard while singing show tunes. It’s all good.
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