It’s me again, Mark Freese – coming to you from my bedroom at Universitetsparken where I have been held hostage by a flu and the Danish spring; Sun, Snow, Rain, Wind and whatever else the skies may want to throw our way, the Danish spring provides, and in one day too! Sleet one second and sunshine the next – not the best recipe for my health! So yep, pretty sick, and what a terrible time to be sick, it’s SPOT Festival downtown! Ahhh well, next year – the only festival I would be focusing on if I went downtown right now would be the one in my stomach!
Enough about that, let’s talk about my birthday. I’m getting old! With the addition of another 1 to my age comes an additional tradition amongst the existing multitude of danish flag-inducing festivities and customs; I’ll be turning 25 – and this coming of age will get messy if my friends have anything to do with it… I won’t be referring to them as friends after my eyes and pores are opened to the burn of cinnamon!
Yes, you may have seen it already – the remnants of said customs below lampposts, over bikes, against walls – they are ridden with rope, tape and anything else that one can be bound with and a seasoned floor of cinnamon! (or pepper!) Depending on your friends, upon your 25 turning of age you shall receive, among other “gifts”, anything from a pinch of cinnamon in a cinnamon roll to a full-on cinnamon assault as seen below in the video… Wow.
So when I wake on the wonderful morning that will be Kapsejladsen day – I will be greeted by my Kollegium mates with a knock on my door and breakfast will be served in my honour. It’s a tradition we have for the person who has the next birthday in the year to prepare a breakfast full of eggs, bacon, bread rolls and the like for the birthday boy/girl, but before breakfast I will be woken by the sound of my colleagues singing I dag er det Marks fødselsdag (One of many Danish birthday songs) and I’ll have a bunch of Danish flags waved in my face… so imagine the video below but with them all singing to me lying in my bed… That’s how it will go – oh how I’ve longed for this day!
If I’m lucky I’ll get this song sung to me at breakfast – I choose three instruments and the choir will imitate those at the end of each verse – Here’s Lukas Graham teaching the Americans how to celebrate a birthday…
So yes, back to the cinnammoning, where did such a strange tradition start? Well according to Wikipedia (and that stuff’s always right!) it dates back to the 16th century and the travelling spice salesmen. The trade officers on duty, often working for the North German Hanseatic, were prohibited from getting married, and given they traded pepper, were referred to as pebersvende (literally pepper journeymen if my danish is anything to go by – probably not). This term was then used to describe bachelors in the subsequent centuries.
How they went from this term to completely covering someone in spice is beyond me – but it’s such a danish thing to do! However this history only explains the peppering at 30; oh yeh, forgot to mention that if you’re still unmarried by thirty the stakes are higher and you’ll be fighting off the will to sneeze after you’re covered head to toe in pepper!!!
So, my guess is some genius Dane decided that there just wasn’t enough flying powders in their lives spicing someone only once in their life – or perhaps just too many people were marrying before 30 and the said Dane really wanted to get his spice bags out more often – The idea must have struck like the sting in a cinnamon victims eye; why not suggest a warm up, a bit of harmless cinnamon at age 25!?!? Because this world needs more spiced men and women…
This is what I love about the danish culture – the many traditions and customs you won’t find anywhere else. Apart from the burn in my eyes and most probably my pants after someone puts a bag of cinnamon down there, having a birthday in Denmark is a very special thing – you really feel loved for that day amongst the cake shaped man that you make scream when you cut his head off, the plethora of danish birthday songs, the birthday snaps shot and the army of Danish flags. So make sure you’ve got enough danish friends to celebrate it with; because they’ll expect the same love in return when it’s theirs – be sure to bring twice as many bags of spice!
Look out for me at Kapsejladsen… I may just be that one covered in cinnamon… Good thing my shower is conveniently located a few steps away! Or perhaps that University lake will look attractive with the sting of my skin. Probably not. That stuff’s nasty!
P.S. If the weather man is anyone to go by in Denmark (he’s been proven not) the sun looks to be out for Kapsejladsen! Now THAT will be AWESOME!
P.P.S – Marco Vitari rightfully pointed out I promised spiced women… Couldn’t find any – but did find these wannabes…
A little about me – I’m a 24-year-old (soon to be 25 as mentioned above) from Perth, Australia (but born in South Africa) studying a Master’s in Marketing here at Aarhus University. I first fell in love with Denmark as an exchange student in 2013 (although before that a Danish girl in 2012), and – like so many others – I couldn’t resist coming back! I moved to Aarhus in 2015, and hope to stay in Denmark after my studies – perhaps joining in on this Danish surge in innovation and entrepreneurship – but first I’ll need to get my tongue to do that “Rødgrød med fløde” thing…
I play music occasionally and am currently recording an album with my Australian band over the interwebs. Stay tuned for more news on that and follow my solo musical adventures on my facebook page. There’s an EP in the mix 😉