Easter Abroad: Danish Valentines

From my observations it seems that Easter is a very important holiday in Denmark. The supermarkets are packed with Easter baskets. The chocolate shops are all advertising egg shaped products. It seems that most family’s will have a nice lunch planned with friends and family. This isn’t too atypical from my experience in America, but I have noticed a few differences. There seems to be way more egg shaped items rather than bunny or baby chicks, such as Peeps.

My favorite difference is a fun tradition I’ve learned about this week. It involves a type of Easter valentine exchange. Known as Gækkebrev, it is an old Danish Easter tradition in which people send riddles in homemade cards in hopes of getting chocolate. After hearing about this I quickly set up shop at the table making a number of cards with my host sister and a friend from DIS.

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Hot Chocolate is needed as fuel for our work

 

The following poem/riddle is the one we wrote inside ours:

Mit navn det står med prikker pas på det ikke stikker

The English translation of this is:

My name it says with dots make sure it does not stick

Made by cutting paper, similar to how paper snow flakes are made, each card is unique. Hans Christian Andersen, the famous Danish writer, is know for making very intricate hand cut cards. I found the process similar to making handmade Valentines day cards. Fun Fact: Valentines Day is not widely celebrated in Denmark. In recent years younger generations have begun to celebrate the day, but to most Danes February 14th is nothing special.

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Book cover for Hans Christian Anderson paper cuttings found on Amazon

The tradition of carefully cutting the paper to to create pictures has turned into quite the art form. I was told there is actually an exhibit showcasing some intricate examples opening over Easter weekend that I might check out.

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Ingrid hard at work

The cards are then sent anonymously to friends or family members. You sign the card using a secret code of dots. Each dot is supposed to represent each letter in your name. The receiver of the card is then given three chances to guess the name of the sender. If they guess correctly, the sender must give them a chocolate egg but if they are unable to guess they then give you a chocolate egg.

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Image taken from www.kbh-sprogcenter.dk

Also included in each card is a Påskelilje, an Easter lily. These spring flowers are very popular in Denmark. They are the first sign of spring after a long and dreary winter. Overall this was a fun tradition that I think I might bring back home with me. Who knows, maybe in a few years I’ll be as good as the Danes at this!

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