Private: Danish Holiday Traditions

Exploring Danish Holiday Traditions and How Expats Can Participate in and Appreciate These Cultural Events

Denmark, known for its rich history, beautiful landscapes, and friendly people, is also a country with unique holiday traditions. As an expat living in Denmark, understanding and participating in these cultural events can be a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the local community and create lasting memories. In this article, we will explore some of the most prominent Danish holiday traditions and provide tips on how expats can fully embrace and appreciate these festivities.

1. Embracing the Danish Christmas Spirit

Christmas is a magical time in Denmark, filled with traditions that date back centuries. One of the most beloved Danish holiday traditions is the lighting of the Christmas tree. In many towns and cities, a large Christmas tree is placed in the central square and lit up on the first Sunday of Advent. This event often includes carol singing, hot cocoa, and the presence of Santa Claus, known as Julemanden in Danish.

Another cherished Danish Christmas tradition is the Advent calendar. Starting on December 1st, children open a small door or package on their calendar each day until Christmas Eve. This anticipation builds excitement and helps count down the days until the arrival of Juleaften (Christmas Eve), when families gather for a festive meal and exchange gifts.

As an expat, you can fully embrace the Danish Christmas spirit by attending local Christmas markets, where you can find traditional Danish crafts, delicious treats, and warm gløgg (mulled wine). Additionally, consider joining in the tradition of making homemade Christmas decorations, such as woven hearts or paper stars, which are commonly hung on Christmas trees.

2. Celebrating New Year's Eve Danish Style

New Year's Eve, or Nytårsaften, is a lively and festive celebration in Denmark. One of the most iconic Danish New Year's traditions is the midnight meal, known as Gammelårsaften. This meal typically consists of boiled codfish, cured meats, pickled herring, and other traditional Danish dishes.

Another popular tradition is the Danish New Year's speech, delivered by the reigning monarch. This speech is broadcasted on television and radio, and it reflects on the past year and looks ahead to the future. Many Danes gather around the TV or radio to listen to the speech together.

As an expat, you can celebrate New Year's Eve Danish style by joining in the tradition of watching the Queen's speech and enjoying a festive meal with friends or family. You can also participate in the Danish tradition of "smashing plates" at midnight. This involves breaking old dishes against the front doors of friends and neighbors as a symbol of friendship and good luck for the coming year.

3. Easter Traditions in Denmark

Easter, or Påske, is a significant holiday in Denmark, marking the arrival of spring and new beginnings. One of the most prominent Danish Easter traditions is the decorating of Easter eggs. Danes often paint or dye hard-boiled eggs in vibrant colors and display them around the house or garden.

Another popular Easter tradition is the "gækkebrev" or "fool's letter." These are handmade letters or cards with a short poem or rhyme, which are sent anonymously to friends and family. The recipient must then guess the identity of the sender. If they guess correctly, they receive a chocolate egg, but if they are unable to guess, they must give the sender an Easter egg.

As an expat, you can participate in Danish Easter traditions by decorating eggs and sending gækkebreve to your loved ones. You can also join in the Danish tradition of attending Easter church services, where you can experience the beautiful hymns and rituals associated with this holiday.

4. Midsummer Celebrations in Denmark

Midsummer, or Sankt Hans Aften, is a popular Danish holiday celebrated on the evening of June 23rd. This holiday marks the summer solstice and is often associated with bonfires, singing, and dancing.

One of the most well-known Danish Midsummer traditions is the burning of witches. In the past, it was believed that witches would fly to the Brocken mountain in Germany on this night. To ward off the witches, Danes would build bonfires and burn effigies of witches. Today, this tradition has evolved into a festive event where communities gather around bonfires, sing songs, and enjoy traditional Danish food.

As an expat, you can fully immerse yourself in the Danish Midsummer celebrations by attending local bonfires and participating in the singing and dancing. You can also indulge in traditional Danish Midsummer food, such as pickled herring, new potatoes, and strawberry cake.

5. Danish National Day - Constitution Day

June 5th is a special day in Denmark, as it marks Danish National Day, also known as Constitution Day. This day commemorates the signing of the Danish Constitution in 1849 and is celebrated with various events and activities throughout the country.

One of the main traditions on Danish National Day is the raising of the Danish flag, known as Dannebrog. Many Danes display the flag outside their homes, and there are often parades and concerts held in honor of this national symbol.

As an expat, you can join in the Danish National Day celebrations by attending local parades and concerts. You can also show your appreciation for Danish culture by learning about the history and significance of the Danish Constitution and the values it represents.


Denmark is a country with a rich cultural heritage and unique holiday traditions. As an expat living in Denmark, embracing and participating in these traditions can be a rewarding experience. Whether it's celebrating Christmas with the lighting of the Christmas tree, welcoming the New Year with a festive meal, or participating in the Midsummer bonfires, immersing yourself in Danish holiday traditions will not only deepen your understanding of Danish culture but also create lasting memories and connections with the local community.

So, as an expat in Denmark, don't hesitate to fully embrace and appreciate Danish holiday traditions. Immerse yourself in the festivities, participate in the rituals, and create your own unique experiences that will make your time in Denmark truly special.