event Calendar

southern california United States (solvang)

    • January 12, 2021
    • (CST)
    • December 31, 2021
    • (CST)
    • Elverhøj Museum of History and Art - Solvang, CA


    Elverhøj Highlights Solvang’s Founding throughout 2021: Skål Solvang – Celebrating 110 Years of History & Culture

    Visitors to Solvang today are welcomed by a picturesque downtown of half-timber Old World, Danish-style buildings and windmills. The story behind the downtown facades dates back 110 years.

    After an extensive land search, nearly 9,000 acres of land were purchased on January 12, 1911 for a new Danish colony in the Santa Ynez Valley. The founding of this agricultural town was based on three deeply held principles: community, education and church. Within a month, settlers began to arrive and a name was selected for the new town: Solvang, literally “sunny field” in Danish.

    Downtown Solvang grew quickly. Danish entrepreneurs built new businesses that provided goods and services to the growing community and the surrounding Santa Ynez Valley. Atterdag College, the Danish folk school built on a hill overlooking town, educated young adults and was the hub of the community. Solvang’s evolution from a rudimentary beginning into a success story was driven by perseverance and  collaboration – a blending of American economic ideals with Danish community cooperation.

    Following World War II and the January 18, 1947 publication of a feature story in Saturday Evening Post, enthusiastic tourists started visiting Solvang looking for “Little Denmark” as described in the Post article. The town turned to tourism with ever-increasing success, emphasizing Solvang’s heritage by rebuilding downtown structures in the Danish architectural style that has received national and international recognition.

    Perhaps one of the most astonishing aspects of Solvang is that it has survived where many larger, more established Danish colonies in the United States did not. Through tenacity, forward thinking, sheer determination … and location … Solvang today is a vital and ever-evolving community.

    The celebration of Solvang’s founding in 1911 and its 110th anniversary will be celebrated by the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art throughout 2021. “Skål Solvang – Celebrating 110 Years of History & Culture” will include special exhibitions and programming, an email series highlighting community milestones, and events when allowed.


    CELEBRATING 110 Years of History and Culture

    Elverhøj is honoring Solvang's founding in 1911 and its 110th anniversary using the theme “Skål Solvang – Celebrating 110 Years of History & Culture.” This is the second in a year-long series of emails highlighting community milestones. 

    Trying Times For New Danish Colony 

    Perhaps one of the most astonishing aspects of Solvang is that it has survived where many larger, more established Danish communities in the United States did not. What most visitors and even long-time residents don’t know is how close the town came to collapsing in the years just after its idyllic beginning in 1911.

    Problems accumulated in a stealthy, devastating way. Weather, fiscal difficulties and misperceptions became serious problems.

    By 1913, the nucleus of Solvang’s downtown was growing. Gaviota Road (present day Alisal Road) is visible running through the middle of the town. New homes cluster at the right along Lompoc Road (Mission Drive).

    When the land sale was finalized in January of 1911, the local hills were green and the Santa Ynez River flowed nearby. The land was beautiful but very different from what the Danes had been used to, whether they were coming from the Midwest, elsewhere in the U.S. or directly from Denmark. 

    Despite heavy winter rains the first year, groundwater was hard to find and many test wells came up dry. The fall harvest was weak. The extended summer heat and dry spells made some settlers talk of leaving.

    Water for irrigation was a perennial problem. Most early residents practiced dry farming, growing crops during winter rains and letting the land lie fallow during dry summer months. Beans & grains grew best in these conditions. 

    Worse, the Danish American Colony (DAC) stock used to finance the purchase of the land to establish the new town was not selling well. Verbal support remained strong, but the expected financial backing didn’t materialize. Land sales plummeted as rumors flew that Solvang land was not well suited to agriculture. Even with a two-month extension, the DAC barely made the second $100,000 payment at the end of 1912.

    Every  piece of open ground was used to plant crops. The front yard of the Niels Rasmussen home on Laurel Avenue sprouted beans.

    The winter of 1912-13 brought a drought that led to yet another poor harvest, devastating the reputation of the fledgling colony, which was harmed further by unfounded stories of mismanagement.

    By August 1913, the DAC had managed to bring in only $15,000 for the year, far short of the $100,000 needed to fulfill its contract. Disaster loomed.

    Admitting defeat, the DAC directors were forced to return all unsold land – 2/3 of the 8,883-acre parcel – to the Santa Barbara Land and Water Company which put the land back up for sale.

    Nevertheless, they didn’t give up. The crisis led J.M. Gregersen, one of the town’s three founders (pictured front left in photo with founders and friends on Santa Ynez River bridge in Solvang), to step down as pastor to focus solely on finding the funds Solvang needed to survive.  

    Gregersen pulled in every favor, twisted every arm and even traveled to the Midwest to find the money needed to save the new town. In just two months, he managed to find 25 investors who provided enough funds to buy back 5,828 acres, retire the debt, and settle with the investors. The town was now free and clear and in Danish hands as originally envisioned.

    Early view of town center. The newly constructed Solvang Hotel stands behind plowed fields. Ynez School is to the right beside a tent that accommodated overflow settlers waiting for their homes to be built.

    Having averted failure, the town’s leaders focused on building a thriving community and the folk school at its heart.

    Learn more when we continue in March!

    Missed last month’s history email? Catch up now. 

    January History Installment 

    With appreciation to Ann Dittmer for historical research

    Want to learn more about the history of Solvang?

    Hardcover book - 220 full-color pages 


    (805) 686-1211 or  info@elverhoj.org 

    Store & Grounds OPEN 

    Saturday & Sunday - 11 to 4

    Guests must wear face covering and practice social distancing. Guest capacity is limited. 


    CELEBRATING 110 Years of History and Culture

    Elverhøj will celebrate Solvang's founding in 1911 and its 110th anniversary using the theme “Skål Solvang – Celebrating 110 Years of History & Culture” for a series of emails highlighting community milestones and, when permitted, in-person special exhibitions and events.

    January 12, 1911 

    Land Purchased For New Danish colony 

    Visitors to Solvang today are welcomed by a picturesque downtown of half-timber Old World, Danish-style buildings and windmills. The story behind the downtown facades is a fascinating and unique story that dates back 110 years.

    Travel to the isolated Santa Ynez Valley in the early 1900s was difficult and circuitous. The Pacific Coast Railway, shown approaching its final stop in Los Olivos, brought northern travelers from Harford's Wharf near San Luis Obispo. Horse drawn carriages or wagons took them the rest of the way.

    After an extensive land search in northern California, they arrived in Los Olivos riding the narrow-gauge railroad. The land they saw had once been part of the sprawling Mexican-era Rancho San Carlos de Jonata land grant. Later it had been purchased by R.T. Buell, who ranched it until a drought hit and he was forced in 1890 to sell 10,000 prime acres to the Santa Barbara Land and Development Company.

    Even though the Santa Ynez Valley was then a remote area, the founders saw possibilities that made it a viable location for a new town and Danish folk school. The soil looked promising for agricultural production, the sizable Santa Ynez River flowed nearby, and best of all, the price – $338,000 – was within their reach.

    They incorporated their informal land-search committee as the Danish American Colony (DAC). On January 12, 1911 they signed an agreement offering a down payment of $5,000 and a promise to pay installments of $100,000 per year for the first three years.

    Within a month, settlers began to arrive and a name was selected for the new town: Solvang, literally “sunny field” in Danish.

    To begin the daunting task of selling land to would-be settlers and investors, the DAC immediately advertised in all the major Danish-American newspapers. The founders sent letters and brochures to their wide network of friends and supporters, encouraging them to buy stock or land in the new colony (at prices that ranged from $25 to $130 an acre), and inviting Danish youth to attend the first co-ed folk school in the nation. The mild California winter climate was an added incentive.

    Danish and American flags fly briskly in front of the folk school (left), constructed in 1911 on Gaviota Road (present day Alisal). Adjacent is the Solvang Hotel, while behind the school stands a white tent that accommodated overflow settlers waiting for their homes to be built.

    The DAC founders wasted no time. After four months, the colony had built a hotel to feed and house new arrivals while their homes and barns were being constructed. The Solvang Hotel and its busy kitchen would become the center of activity during that first year. Then, on November 15, 1911, the founders opened the Danish-American folk school (the last such school built in the United States).

    Early residents gather in front of the Solvang Hotel. The building was funded, in part, through stock certificates.

    By the end of 1911, 80 adults were residing in Solvang, and because of robust land sales, the DAC was successful in meeting its first $100,000 payment. The first residence – the H.P. Jensen home – had been built, the folk school was a resounding success, and the nucleus of a strong business community was forming. The Lutheran church held its first services. And Solvang’s first baby had been born to the wife of the town surveyor in late summer.

    On the surface, Solvang was living up to expectations.­  But this idyllic beginning soon began to show signs of stress.  

    Learn more when we continue in February!

    With appreciation to Ann Dittmer for historical research. 


    Saturday & Sunday – 11 am to 4 pm

    Shop-by-Appointment: For Members and those who prefer a more private experience. (805) 686-1211 or email info@elverhoj.org.

    Guests must wear face covering and practice social distancing. Guest capacity is limited. 

    Want to learn more about the history of Solvang?

    220 page, hardcover, full color book. Shipping available: $7.95 in US. To place an order phone 805-686-1211 or email info@elverhoj.org 



    CELEBRATING 110 Years of History and Culture

    Elverhøj is honoring Solvang's founding in 1911 and its 110th anniversary using the theme “Skål Solvang – Celebrating 110 Years of History & Culture.” This is the third in a year-long series of emails highlighting community milestones. 

    Early Solvang's Focus on Education 

    In 1911, Solvang’s founders established an agricultural town based on the deeply held principles of community and education. Building a town from nothing was a massive undertaking that was stressful at best. But the new arrivals endured and remained committed to the founders and their vision that Solvang was to be the West Coast center for education focused on Danish culture and arts through the formation of a Danish-American folk school.  

    The first folk school in Solvang opened November 15, 1911 in a new building next to the Solvang Hotel on Gaviota Road (now Alisal Road). Today, the Bit O’ Denmark Restaurant occupies the structure, redressed in Danish Provincial style.

    Folk schools were inspired – in part – by Danish theologian and educator N.F.S. Grundtvig. Classes and activities were structured to encourage intellectual pursuits, innovation and imagination in the young adult students. The institutions were non-degreed and emphasized the collective heritage of Danes.

    The new school was named Ungdomsskolen i Solvang (Youth School in Solvang), although the name was rarely used. It became the most successful start of any Danish-American youth school in the United States when 41 students arrived in a town with just five buildings and where tents outnumbered finished homes. 

    Classes were held from November to April, 9 am to 6 pm, six days a week. While class days were long and social rules strict, fun times balanced serious studies. Pictured is an energetic bunch of men students outside a dormitory.

    There was a strong shared bond among the students. Every seat will filled daily for classes in Danish and English. Evening activities such as folk dancing, guest speakers, lanterns shows of far-away places, and musical performances were attended by students as well as members of the surrounding communities.  

    Education that embraced mind and body was a unique part of the folk school philosophy. Gymnastics was taught outdoors every morning – rain or shine. Pictured are women gymnasts in uniform, complete with lace collar, and the men’s gymnastics class. Note the temporary tent housing in the field behind the men.

    A new two-room Ynez School was erected in 1915 on Lompoc Road (Mission Drive) for a growing population of grammar school students.

    Younger students were also important to the growing town. Unlike the folk school with its open curriculum intended for young adults, children had to enroll in the more structured American public education system. Before the Danish colony was founded, the one-room Ynez School, built in 1906 along Lompoc Road (Mission Drive), served eight local children from throughout the greater Santa Ynez Valley.  As more and more children arrived in Solvang, a new two-room schoolhouse was built in 1915.

    Although the growing town had to face many obstacles, real progress was visible in the success of the folk school. It quickly became the center of community activity and was soon to make an enormous leap forward – with a move to a new, impressive home on a hill overlooking Solvang and a new name: Atterdag College.

    The Solvang story continues in March!

    With appreciation to Ann Dittmer for historical research

    Elverhøj is honoring Solvang's founding in 1911 and its 110th anniversary using the theme “Skål Solvang – Celebrating 110 Years of History & Culture.” This is the April installment in a year-long series of emails highlighting community milestones. 

    Atterdag College - "A New Day" 

    One of the reasons for Solvang's founding was to create a Danish folk school. As we shared in last month’s email, the first folk school was built and classes began in November 1911. (The building still stands today on Alisal Road). By 1914, the town was expanding after facing significant obstacles and averting financial failure. The focus then turned back to growing to the town’s folk school.

    In April 1914, Benedict Nordentoft, one of the three founders, became sole owner of the school and promptly made plans to build a larger campus. Peter and Johanne Albertsen, early Solvang settlers, donated six acres of land on a hilltop overlooking town. Nordentoft obtained a loan, solicited friends around the U.S. for donations and in fall 1914 construction began.

    When the last rafter for the new college was in place, Solvang celebrated with a rejsegilde – a rafter raising celebration. Following Danish tradition, residents hung wreaths, raised the Danish and American flags, and shared food and drink. 

    Nearly all of the town's settlers contributed labor or money and the new school soon rose and was given a new name: Atterdag College. It's a Danish expression of hope that means "tomorrow there is a new day." The three-story building was an impressive sight with its peaked roof and gracious front porch. 

    Atterdag College opened in December of 1914 and the new, gleaming white building became  the visual, educational and cultural center of Solvang. It was a place for learning and where young adults made lasting relationships. 

    The school's park in Fredensborg Canyon became an extension of the campus. Here students listened to lectures, held picnics and performances, and engaged in games and other pastimes. Remnants of the footpaths and hillside stairs remain visible today, although the location of the Talende Eg (Talking Oak, pictured) where lecturers stood on a platform built into the tree, remains a subject of local debate.

    Danish folk dancing, which experienced a revival in the early 1900s, was incredibly popular at Atterdag. Nearly every evening, folk dancing would end the day's studies with lighthearted fun. Many students also took part in public folk dance shows around Southern California. 

    By the 1930s, enrollment in the college was in decline, a sign of the times as folk schools fell out of favor and students chose American universities. Happily, after a year of inactivity, students once again congregated on campus – but now it was youth ages 7 to 16. They came for a popular summer camp run by Viggo and Cora Tarnow from 1938-1951.

    Fall through spring, Atterdag served as a much-needed boarding house and hotel for visitors, filling a critical void. The college and adjacent gymnasium were regularly used for community events – weddings, parties, conferences, church activities and local meetings – until the 1960s. 

    Today the gym is perhaps best remembered by the many students who attended Mr. Tarnow's weekly gymnastics classes, stretching on the bars and vaulting over the “horses,” until it closed in 1970.

    In 1950, six acres of the campus were donated for creation of a new retirement facility which opened in 1953, shown in the foreground of the photo. The retirement home, known today as Atterdag Village of Solvang, grew, but for a variety of reasons the college's main building was ultimately left vacant. Disuse led to disrepair and by 1970 the difficult decision was made to demolish the college structure and make room for growth of the retirement home.

    Today a plaque commemorating the site of Atterdag College is all that remains. But many of the town's original buildings still stand in the downtown. The structures that housed the first folk school, the meat market, the feed store, the mercantile and other early Solvang businesses live on, re-dressed in Danish Provincial style.

    • April 02, 2021
    • (CDT)
    • August 31, 2021
    • (CDT)
    • Elverhøj Museum - Solvang, CA


    We're Open!

    Current Exhibits

    We're excited to let you know that all the museum spaces are open and our visitors services team is ready to welcome you back to the museum!


    A focus on visitor and staff health and safety remains front and center as we implement all recommended COVID measures, including requiring masks for visitors and staff; requiring social distancing throughout the museum; providing hand sanitizer stations at entries and frequent sanitation of public areas; and limiting the number of visitors. These and other measures ensure Elverhøj is a welcome and safe space for our community, staff and volunteers.




    An hour at the museum away from the general public to protect those who are immunocompromised or have special needs, and for our members in appreciation of their support. Beginning April 9. Phone for appointment: (805) 686-1211. 

    Art Gallery Open - Rembrandts Etchings on View!

    A heralded collection of 21 etchings by Dutch Master Rembrandt van Rijn paired with displays about the Danish WWII rescue of their Jewish population.

    This timely exhibition links people, time and place through artwork and action with a legacy created by neighbors who cared for, and about, one another.

    1624 Elverhoy Way
    Solvang, CA  93463

    Elverhøj Website

    Elverhøj Facebook

    • June 18, 2021
    • (CDT)
    • June 27, 2021
    • (CDT)
    • Virtual Event


    Nordic Embassies in Washington D.C. Present 15th Annual Nordic Jazz Festival

    Virtual Event June 18 - 27th

    Washington D.C., June 10 – Every summer, the Nordic Embassies in Washington D.C. present the Nordic Jazz Festival – a cherished tradition showcasing top artists from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. This June, the Embassies are teaming up with the acclaimed Blues Alley Jazz Club – this time virtually – to present the 15th annual Nordic Jazz Festival. For an entire week, jazz enthusiasts can watch four jazz concerts online, all free of charge.

    WHEN: The concerts will be available to watch between June 18, at 5:00 PM (ET), and June 27, at 5:00 PM (ET)

    WHERE: The festival will take place online at bluesalley.com; registration is required.

    Nordic jazz artists present a unique sound that emphasizes the natural elements of the Nordic countries with a modern interpretation. Nordic jazz music tends to be experimental, but melodically strong, with a spacious sound and open song structures. The participants in the 2021 Nordic Jazz Festival are some of the Nordic countries’ most creative artists and have strong educational backgrounds, international careers, and are recipients of multiple jazz awards. Read more about the participants below.

    More Information

    • June 20, 2021
    • (CDT)
    • October 17, 2021
    • (CDT)
    • 18 sessions
    • Bethania Lutheran Church - Solvang, CA


    Bethania has suspended in-person services. You are invited to join us via live-streaming. See the links below.

    Click the link to read my letter about what will be happening and how we'll stay connected. Also, Bethania Preschool will be communicating directly should they choose to close.

    Pastor Chris letter

    Journeying Together: Rooted, Growing, Branching Out 

    Sunday Worship 9:30 a.m.
    Coffee Time 10:30 a.m.
    Worship Service 11:00 a.m.
    Sunday School 11:00 a.m.

    Bethania Lutheran Church
    603 Atterdag Rd
    Solvang, CA 93463

    Telephone - 805-688-4637 
    Bethania Lutheran Website

    Bethania Facebook

    Bethania Livestream

    • June 23, 2021
    • (CDT)
    • June 23, 2023
    • (CDT)
    • 3 sessions


    A Nordic tradition, celebrated on the night before the Midsummer's Day, Midsummer's Eve or Sankt Hans Aften is a relic of pagan customs, where the shortest day, the winter solstice, and the longest day, the summer solstice, were celebrated. Originally it was believed that midsummer night was filled with magical forces of nature—both bad and good. All herbs and sources were particularly sacred, and it was a tradition to seek sacred springs or picking healing herbs on this night.

    Image: Midsummer Eve Bonfire on Skagen Beach (Danish: Sankt Hansblus på Skagen strand) a 1906 painting by P.S. Krøyer 
    More Info on this famous Krøyer work

    The tradition of burning bonfires came later. Originally they were not associated with Midsummer's Eve celebration, although later some farmers who believed in witches started burning bonfires on this night. A shape that looks like a witch was put in the fire. The purpose of the fire was to scare the witches and evil spirits away, rather than burning them.

    Today the Midsummer's Eve is still celebrated with bonfires, dancing, singing and a traditional speech from someone well known in the community. The celebrations are held all around the country, both in cities and small towns.

    Some of the most vibrant celebrations take place in Copenhagen, Odense, Aarhus, and Skagen. The capital has bonfires at several places, including Tivoli Gardens, Frederiksberg Gardens, Islands Brygge, and more. Likewise, Aarhus offers quite a few locations to celebrate, such as Aarhus University campus, Godsbanen, or Langenæs Church. In Odense, the festivities take place at Engen in the Fruens Bøge forest. At last, the remote Skagen promises an exceptional celebration. Thousands come to the northern tip of Denmark to enjoy traditional songs at the bonfire that lasts here longer than anywhere else in the country.

    Burning the witches in Denmark

    The height of Danish summer is celebrated on the evening of June 23 under the name Sankt Hans (Saint Hans), who is known in English as John the Baptist. The festival of Sankt Hans and the celebration of the summer solstice have pagan roots and date back to the days before Christianity came to Denmark. 

    Sankt Hans is generally celebrated with a dinner at home with family and friends followed by a stroll to a community bonfire, often by the beach or on the shore of one of Denmark's many lakes.

    Tradition calls for an effigy of a witch to be placed on top of the bonfire, and as it burns the community sings the song "Midsommervisen", written by the Danish poet Holger Drachmann in 1885. The effigy of the witch symbolises all the misery that Denmark as a nation wants to avoid, and the song celebrates the hope that peace will prevail.

    Midsommervisen “Vi elsker vort land”  

    De tre første vers, som normalt synges ved bålfester
    Text: Holger Drachmann, 1885
    Melodi P. E. Lange-Müller, 1885 

    Vi elsker vor land,
    når den signede jul
    tænder stjernen i træet med glans i hvert øje.
    Når om våren hver fugl,
    over mark, under strand,
    lader stemmen til hilsende triller sig bøje:
    Vi synger din lov over vej, over gade,
    vi kranser dit navn, når vor høst er i lade,
    men den skønneste krans,
    bli'r dog din Sankte Hans!
    Den er bunden af sommerens hjerter,
    så varme så glade. 

    Vi elsker vort land,
    men ved midsommer mest,
    når hver sky over marken velsignelsen sender,
    når af blomster er flest,
    og når kvæget i spand
    giver rigeligst gave til flittige hænder;
    når ikke vi pløjer og harver og tromler,
    når koen sin middag i kløveren gumler,
    da går ungdom til dans
    på dit bud Sankte Hans
    ret som føllet og lammet, der frit
    over engen sig tumler. 

    Vi elsker vort land,
    og med sværdet i hånd
    skal hver udenvælts fjende beredte os kende,
    men mod ufredens ånd
    under mark over strand,
    vil vi bålet på fædrenes gravhøje tænde
    hver by har sin heks,
    og hver sogn sine trolde.
    Dem vil vi fra livet med glædesblus holde
    vi vil fred her til lands
    Sankte Hans, Sankte Hans!
    Den kan vindes, hvor hjerterne
    aldrig bli'r tvivlende kolde

    English Translation...

    Vi Elsker Vort Land/"We Love Our Country"

    We love our country
    when the blessed Christmas
    light up the star in the tree with a twinkle in each eye
    When in spring each bird
    over the field, down by the beach
    lets its voice give into greeting trills:
    We sing your law across the road, across the street,
    we wreath your name, when our harvest is in the barn,
    but the most beautiful wreath
    becomes yours, Saint Hans
    It is bound by the the hearts of the summer so warm, so happy
    but the most beautiful wreath
    becomes yours, Saint Hans
    It is bound by the hearts of the summer so warm, so happy

    We love our country
    but mostly around midsummer
    when every cloud sends the blessing across the field
    When most flowers are here
    and when the cattle drag the plough
    gives plenty of gifts to laborious hands;
    when we don't plough and harrow and roll,
    when the cow munch its dinner of clover:
    At that time youth will start to dance
    at your command Saint Hans!
    Straight as the foal and the lamb which freely romp across the meadow
    At that time youth will start to dance
    at your command Saint Hans!
    Straight as the foal and the lamb which freely romp across the meadow

    We love our country
    and with the sword in our hands
    every foreign enemy shall prepared know us
    But against the spirit of strife
    over the field, down by the beach
    we will light the bonfire on the forefathers' burial mounds:
    Every town has its witch, and every parish its trolls,
    we will keep those from our lives with fires of happiness
    We want peace in this country,
    saint Hans, saint Hans!
    It can be won where the hearts never become doubting cold
    We want peace in this country,
    saint Hans, saint Hans!
    It can be won where the hearts never become doubting cold

    We love our country
    and we greet that king
    who has tried and chosen the right princess:
    In his fairy tale castle
    every woman, every man can
    find an example of love for life!
    Let the times grow old, let the colors fade,
    we will however draw a memory in our hearts:
    From the North so rich in legends
    a glory goes across the world
    It is the reflection of the wonderland's enchanted meadows,
    From the North so rich in legends
    a glory goes across the world
    It is the reflection of the wonderland's enchanted meadows!

    • June 25, 2021
    • (CDT)
    • Little Bighorn Battlefield - Southeastern Montana


    June 25, 1876

    Included in the casualties at The Battle of Little Bighorn were six Danes - three were killed, and three survived.

    The following is from author and Danish American historian Stig Thornsohn.  NFDA thanks Stig for providing this information about the Battle of Little Big Horn from the Danish American perspective...



    ”The sight of the oldest flag in the world – the Danish flag – and the Stars and Stripes flying together will remind us of the long-standing friendship and spirit of understanding which exists now between our two peoples and between our two countries and must exist in the future as long as we both survive.”

    From President John F. Kennedy’s taped speech to Rebild July 4th 1963. 

    Kennedy was right. And countless Danes have fought for the Stars and Stripes since the War of Independence. The 13 stripes were actually a Danish idea.

    Abraham Markøe came from a sugar-rich Danish family in the Danish West Indies. He was sent to the center of power in Philadelphia and became a close friend of George Washington. Markøe created a regiment for the War of Independence, the “Philadelphia Light Horse”, today known as “First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry”, the longest existing military unit in the United States. The regiment also served as a personal bodyguard for Washington. Markøe designed a special flag for his troops, who still use it. It had thirteen blue-silver, stripes that Washington chose to use in the final version of the Stars & Stripes. That’s missing in the official history.

    We have always been strong allies and borne arms with the Americans. P. S. Vig compiled the first description in his two-volume book “Danes fighting for America from approx. 1640 to 1865”.

    That doesn’t include the scores of veterans from the Slesvig wars with Germany. Denmark won the first in 1848 and lost the second in 1864. A good reason for close to 60.000 “German Danes” to emigrate to America, where many chose to serve on the frontier.

    Christian Madsen spent 15 years in the 5th cavalry and later 26 years as a U S marshal. His story will be told later. He was surprised as an old man to find his name on the memorial at Little Bighorn as a casualty of the (in)famous fight - even misspelled Madson. 

    But that was another Dane. Christian Madsen, private in the 7th cavalry company F, born in Kerteminde, Fyn, February 1848, tanner by occupation. He enlisted August 24th 1872 and died with Custer on the hill.

    So did Charles Siemon, Blacksmith, company L. Born 1843, Copenhagen, Denmark. He enlisted  July 19. 1872.

    And Corporal William Teeman, company F. Born 1846. He enlisted Aug 27, 1872.

    Three of six Danes that gave their lives because of a much-debated decision by Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer to attack a superior force of Native Americans perhaps 2.500 warriors dividing his outnumbered force, app. 600 in three battalions. Three companies under the command of Major Marcus Reno, three under the command of Captain Frederick Benteen, five companies under Custer’s direct command. The last of the 12 companies was with Captain Thomas McDougall protecting the pack train with provisions and extra ammunition. Benteen was sent south on a scouting mission, Custer went north to attack the village and Reno was directed to attack from the south where he was met with fierce resistance and had to fall back across the river to take a stand on a hilltop where he was joined by Benteen. They suffered severe casualties.

    Photo: Colonel George Armstrong Custer

    Private Frederick Holmstead, company A was one of them. He was in the valley and the hilltop fights where he was wounded. He died March 27th 1880 at Fort Abraham Lincoln, Dakota Territory. He was born 1849 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Enlisted November 6th 1872.

    Private Jens Mathiasen Møller, aka Jan Moller, company H was wounded at the hilltop fight. He enlisted January 15th 1872. Born September 13th in Hasle, Bornholm, Denmark and died February 23rd 1928 in Deadwood, South Dakota.

    It seems private Christian C. Boisen managed to survive without physical damage. He was part of the hilltop fight for two days. He was born in Denmark December 1854, registered as a bootmaker and enlisted March 25th 1873. He died January 21st 1923 at Fort Smith, Arkansas.

    The battle of Little Bighorn or Peji Sla Wakapa, Greasy Grass as the lakotas name it, is iconic in the “Indian” wars. Custer was a favorite hero before and became a martyr to many afterwards. The news of his total defeat with his 208 men made the news just as America was celebrating its centenary. One of the biggest Native victories, but costly because of the revenge. The Lakotas and the Cheyennes fought a just battle for land that were theirs by right and treaty, but the American westward expansion ignored the treaties. Gold was found in the mountains, like Paha Sapa, the Black Hills and the land was “needed” for the settlers and the railroads.

    As Sitting Bulls said at the Powder River Council, 1877:

    “Strangely enough they have a mind to till the soil and the love of possessions is a disease with them . . . They claim this mother of ours, the earth, for their own, and fence their neighbors away…”

    Photo: Sitting Bull

    It’s hard to blame the soldiers. They were pawns in a big game. Christian Madsen lived a violent life as a soldier and U S marshal. It seems appropriate to conclude with some of his thoughts in late life that say something about the experiences he gathered in a life of fighting and action:

    “... and other nations will realize that a country that spends more billions on war materials than on schools, and trains more officers than teachers - that country is digging its own grave.”


    A&E Television Networks, LLC - The Battle of the Little Bighorn, fought on June 25, 1876, near the Little Bighorn River in Montana Territory, pitted federal troops led by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer (1839-76) against a band of Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne warriors. Tensions between the two groups had been rising since the discovery of gold on Native American lands. When a number of tribes missed a federal deadline to move to reservations, the U.S. Army, including Custer and his 7th Cavalry, was dispatched to confront them. Custer was unaware of the number of Indians fighting under the command of Sitting Bull (c.1831-90) at Little Bighorn, and his forces were outnumbered and quickly overwhelmed in what became known as Custer’s Last Stand.

    More Information

    • July 01, 2021
    • (CDT)
    • January 15, 2022
    • (CST)
    • 6 sessions
    • Online - New Issue Available


    For more information and to Subscribe...

    Subscribe Here


    by Thorvald Hansen

    Church and Life (originally, Kirke og Folk) was begun by the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1952 as an exclusively Danish publication in line with its original purpose which was to serve the Danish readership of the church. Until the 1930s the official church paper had been Kirkelig Samler, but when this had been replaced by the English language publication, Lutheran Tidings, the Danish readers were served by a page called Kirkelig Samler in the Danish language Dannevirke, a privately owned weekly which was unofficially related to the church. When this publication ceased in1951, Danish news of the church was no longer available and this was missed, particularly by older readers. It was to fill this vacuum that the new Danish publication was begun.

    The first issues were distributed gratis to some 750 individuals who might be interested, but within a short time it became a subscription paper with some 1,000 subscribers. It was a 16 page paper issued twice monthly. When the Lutheran Church in America was born in 1963 and Lutheran Tidings ceased publication, some of the readers of that paper became subscribers to Church and Life. Today it has become an exclusively English language publication of 12 to l6 pages (depending on the material available) and is issued monthly. The subscription price is $20 per year. Gifts and memorials make up the shortfall, and the paper continues to function in the black. For its content the paper depends upon the voluntary contributions of a significant number of writers. The December issue is at least twice the normal size for Christmas .

    In 1983 the name was changed to Church and Life. This is not, nor was it intended to be, a translation of the Danish, but rather an indication that the church body out of which it grew was concerned also with this earthly life.

    Throughout its long history the paper has had six full time editors: Holger Strandskov, Paul Wikman, Michael Mikkelsen, Johannes Knudsen, and Thorvald Hansen. The present editor, Joy Ibsen, is the daughter of a former pastor in the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church.
    Currently the paper serves some 460 subscribers as a tie that binds them, not only to one another, but to the religious and social environment with which they have been familiar. This is not an exclusive group, nor are they guided by nostalgia, but one to which any and all who share similar values are more than welcome.

    Reference: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

    • July 02, 2021
    • (CDT)
    • July 05, 2021
    • (CDT)
    • Rebild National Park near Aalborg, Denmark


    Celebration of Danish American Friendship Since 1912
    The Annual Rebild Festival at the Rebild National Park near Aalborg, Denmark

    The 2021 Rebild Celebration will be a combination of live and on-line events.

    July 2 - Danish American Club Aalborg - Garden Party Picnic Aalborg Defense & Garrison Museum 10.00-12.00
                       Afternoon Gathering - Western House next to Top Karins Hus in Rebild - 13.30-16.00

    July 3 - Gala Dinner at Hotel Comwell Hvide Hus Aalborg followed by fireworks - 19.00-23.00

    July 4 -  Celebration in the Rebild Hills 15.00-17.00
                       Keynote Speakers - Andreas Mogensen and Anders Agner

    July 5 - General Membership Meeting 10.00-11.30
                      Luncheon at Rebild Hotel Comwell
                      National Board Meeting 13.00-15.00

    Please email General Secretary Lars Bisgaard for tickets and reservations - lars@rebildfesten.dk

    Now Open! 2021 Rebild Virtual Benefit Auction (Now - July 4)
    Help raise funds to support the Rebild National Park in Denmark!
    See Items and Bid Here

    New Rebild Website-
    Rebild Website

    Rebild National Park Society

    We are a Danish-American Friendship organization,
    playing an important part in these areas:

    • Unique 4th of July Festival in Denmark with Royalty and dignitaries from both countries

    • Preservation of Danish culture and heritage in USA

    • Assistance to Danish newcomers with acclimatization and business networking

    • Help and insight into Danish thinking for Americans doing business with Denmark

    • Friend-shipping and socializing

    • Study abroad scholarships to Denmark

    • Professional full color news magazine two times a year plus Rebild E-News.

    • Annual Conference (each year in a different state in the US)

    Ties of Friendship
    It all began more than one hundred years ago in America. A gathering of Danish-Americans came up with a vision ofa special place in Denmark where they could gather once a year to meet with relatives and friends. And symbolically, as a statement confirming that those who had left would not forget where they had come from. Emigration began gradually in the economically difficult years following the Napoleon Wars, when the country was going bankrupt and having lost Norway. it is estimated that as many as 300,000 Danes emigrated in the years up to the First World War. Exact numbers are not possible because, after 1864, Danes from Southern Iylland were registered as German emigrants.

    Their incentive to leave was the dream of finding freedom and a better life. They especially sought out the northern states in the USA, as did other emigrants from the Scandinavian countries, because the climate and land reminded them of what they had left behind. It had an especial attraction for farmers. The western part of the country offered free land, with the provision they would fence the property, cultivate the land, and by the end ofthe first year, have erected a house with a door and window. Normally only the door and windows that were made of wood, the rest of the house was made of sod! It was hard work but worth the effort. For most, it was a good decision.

    But the emigrants never forgot their homeland and early in the twentieth century they purchased land in the old country. In the beginning they flocked to outdoor meetings near Himmelbjeret, as recorded by Ieppe Aakjaer on “Ienle” and Johan Skjoldborg on "Dynaes." These large outdoor gatherings are a popular tradition we have perpetuated through the years. Most of the emigrants had Iyske roots and it was instinctive for them to seek to meet here. The man with the most initiative was Max Henius from Aalborg, and the land eventually selected was the beautiful hilly heather covered ground in the outskirts of Forest of Rold — Rebild Bakker.

    There were more than 10,000 participants at the first Rebild Festival in 1912, and it was estimated that more than 1,000 came from America. Viewed through today's eyes it was impressive. It was expensive and difficult to travel so far — across America by land and the Atlantic Ocean by boat. The King Christian the 10th participated with Queen Alexandrine and accepted the deed for 140 tender land (equal to approximately 1,363 acres) with the requirement: “... that every year on July 4th, America's Independence Day, a "Rebild Festival" would be held in the Hills." Throughout the intervening years the Royal Family have been active in the Festival. We are happy and thankful for that.

    We have been told that the 4th of July celebration in Denmark is the largest outside the USA. We are proud of that. It’s a wonderful tradition that has continued over the past 100 years. It is a testament to the unbreakable friendship that exists between our two nations who share a common appreciation for freedom and democracy. We stand together!

    • July 07, 2021
    • (CDT)
    • September 01, 2021
    • (CDT)
    • 3 sessions
    • Bit O' Denmark - Solvang, CA


    1st Wednesday of each month

    12:00 Noon Meeting

    Bit O' Denmark
    473 Alisal Rd
    Solvang, CA 

    For More Information including membership, please contact - Grand Secretaries - Tim Heer tim-gs@sbcglobal.net or Natalie Heer natalie-gs@sbcglobal.net.

    Danish Societies Website

    • July 08, 2021
    • (PDT)
    • September 09, 2021
    • (PDT)
    • 3 sessions
    • Concert Schedule


    Venue & Tickets

    Internationally renowned Danish violinist, composer and two-time Grammy Award-winner Mads Tolling is a former member of the Turtle Island Quartet and The Stanley Clarke Band. He has toured internationally and has released three studio albums: “The Playmaker,” “Celebrating Jean-Luc Ponty-Live at Yoshi’s,” and “Mads Tolling & The Mads Men — Playing the 60s.” Mads has been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, and his recordings have received rave reviews in Downbeat Magazine, Strings Magazine, the Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Mads Tolling and The Mads Men bring a fun and exciting program that is as nostalgic as it is contemporary, with reimagined classic songs from 1960s television, film, and radio. The repertoire in the music of the mad men era ranges from “Mission Impossible” and “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” to “A Taste of Honey” and “Georgia on my Mind.”

    In addition to his illustrious career as a performer, Mads Tolling is also an active composer and educator, creating work on his original albums and leading masterclasses and workshops throughout the U.S. and Canada as a certified Yamaha clinician.

    Mads Tolling Website

    Mads Tolling Facebook

    • August 14, 2021
    • (CDT)
    • November 12, 2022
    • (CST)
    • 6 sessions
    • Via Zoom


    Quarterly International Chapter Leadership meeting on Zoom.

    Meeting begins at 10:00AM Central (Chicago) time

    The purpose is to discuss most recent Rebild Board of Directors meeting, and to discuss current issues pertaining to Rebild.

    Zoom link will be sent to Chapter President's and officers prior to meeting.

    Rebild is the Danish American Friendship organization formed in 1912.  Each year, the friendship of Denmark and the United States is celebrated on July 4th at the Rebild National Park near Aalborg.  Anyone interested in the friendly relationship between the two countries is invited to join us!
    July 4 Rebild Festival

    Also, each year the annual U.S. conference is held in a different city in the United States.  Anyone interested in Danish American friendship is invited to join us.
    October 2021 in Phoenix,  Arizona

    April 2022 in Chicago, Illinois

    For more information, please contact the National U.S. Secretary, Linda Steffensen at usrebildoffice@gmail.com

    Or, the National Secretary in Denmark, Lars Bisgaard at lars@rebildfesten.dk

    Rebild Website

    • September 10, 2021
    • (CDT)
    • September 10, 2022
    • (CDT)
    • 2 sessions


    Thorkild Rostgaard (Tom) Knudsen was born September 10, 1890 in the Danish country village of Lohals on the island of Langeland.  Shortly after his birth his mother passed away and Tom's father, Valdemar Knudsen, had to raise four children by himself. Tom found his first job as an errand boy for a tobacco manufacturer when he was nine years old. He attended school in the mornings and worked in the afternoons.  In 1902, Tom won a scholarship to a technical school and, at sixteen, he graduated with high grades.  He dreamed about owning his own farm.  For the next three years he worked his way up to better and better jobs on various dairy farms in Denmark.  He soon realized he could not earn enough in Denmark to make his dream come true.  He had a strong sense of adventure.  Tom decided to travel to America where there were “golden opportunities”.

    Tom left Denmark when he was twenty years old and emigrated to America.  He paid his way across the Atlantic by peeling potatoes. He arrived in New York on May 30, 1910.  He believed one should have integrity, ambition, and live by the Golden Rule.  He was not afraid of hard work and worked as a hospital janitor in his first job. He soon became a farmhand on a progressively managed dairy farm.  He learned a management style that he would carry forward to his own business. He was treated as an associate, and his boss gave suggestions rather than orders. Management and employees dined together and each employee was addressed by his first name. This was in stark contrast to prevailing customs, and highly unusual in an era when most employees were treated with little or no respect. Employees were considered members of the family.  He studied the American dairy production process and determined he could improve the quality and taste of many products.  He then discovered he could make more money as a fireman on a locomotive and get paid to travel, so he took a fireman’s correspondence course.  He found a job with the New York Central railway.  By 1912 he had saved enough money and returned to Denmark to buy a dairy farm and fulfill his dream. It only took him a few days to realize that the American way of life had “gotten under my skin”.  He returned to America a year later.

    He earned his way across America by shoveling coal, and finally in the fall of 1914 he founded a consulting dairy laboratory called Knudsen laboratories with his brother Carl who had preceded him to Southern California.  They acted as consultants and showed dairies how to keep their products fresher longer.  The brothers soon patented a process for making cottage cheese which they licensed to dairy product manufacturers throughout the nation.  The new product was well received and they prospered.  But the war came in 1917 and the two brothers gave the government their patented process as a contribution to the “Food Will Win the War” campaign.  In doing so they gave away the lab’s most important asset. Tom and Carl Knudsen relinquished personal financial security to help in the war effort.  

    At the end of the war the Knudsen brothers were without their patent and the laboratory was no longer profitable. Tom had to start all over again. Tom and Carl began producing their own buttermilk for the Southern Pacific railroad and Knudsen Laboratories began its rapid expansion. Quality, taste, and customer service were the engines of growth.  In 1924 Tom and Carl decided to divide the business between them. Carl wanted to specialize in yogurt and Tom took the remainder of the dairy products including ice cream, mixes, buttermilk, and cottage cheese. On July 17, 1925 Tom made his full commitment to America when he became a naturalized citizen.

    He subsequently changed the company’s name to Knudsen Creamery.  He began with three employees, a second hand delivery truck, a few hundred dollars in borrowed capital, some used machinery, and his personal philosophy of high-quality and fair dealings.  His zeal for excellence created superior products.  His philosophy became the company’s slogan: “The Very Best”. The Knudsen Creamery became known for its high quality products, it's impeccable customer service, and a great place to work because Tom Knudsen treated his employees like he had been treated years before on the New York dairy farm. Eighteen years after arriving in America Tom Knutson was recognized as an undisputed authority within the dairy industry and set the standards that others would follow. The business grew to 32 dairies in California

    Tom met his wife Valley at the Danish American Club in Los Angeles in 1916. They were married December 14, 1917.  Tom and Valley became the proud parents of Elinor Gene and later adopted Marie, an orphaned Danish American girl. As time passed Tom and Valley both became more and more involved with civic activities and gave both time and money to help others.  In the 1930’s the Knudsen’s raised money to help underwrite expenses for Danish athletes competing in the 1932 Olympic games in Los Angeles. The funds left over were used as seed money for the Danish Cheer Committee, now part of The Danish Lutheran Church and Cultural Center, which aided and assisted needy Danes.

    After World War II when many Danes wanted to immigrate to the United States, Tom and Valley personally sponsored more than 100 people. They were, in effect, the uncrowned leaders of the Danish community and created strong ties between Denmark and California.  For their involvement, Tom was Knighted by His Majesty King Frederick IX of Denmark as Commander of the Order of Dannebrog and Valley was awarded the King Christian X Liberty Medal.

    Valley Mary Knudsen (Filtzer) was born March 24,1895 in Chicago, Illinois and moved to Los Angeles when she was nine.  Valley became one of the most active civic leaders Los Angeles has ever known, at times holding literally dozens of civic posts simultaneously. Her greatest and certainly her most lasting achievement was the founding of Los Angeles Beautiful in 1949.  She served as president for the next 20 years. This organization planted trees and removed trash from the cities streets. Her campaign was so successful that by one estimate Los Angeles Beautiful had planted 250,000 trees valued at $6 million in 15 years. Under her leadership the organization helped landscape numerous public facilities, converted fourteen miles of deserted railways into green spaces and fought a tireless battle against urban litter.  Los Angeles Beautiful became the model for similar efforts in communities across the country. Tom passed away October 29, 1965 and Valley September 10, 1976. 

    The Danish Church and Cultural Center in Yorba Linda would not have been built without the financial support from the Tom and Valley Knudsen Foundation. The Tom and Valley Knudsen Foundation was established in 1951 and provided moral and financial support to worthy community causes. The Tom and Valley Knudsen Foundation had generously donated over $1 million to construction of the Danish Lutheran Church and Cultural Center. The Danish Cultural Center was named the Tom and Valley Knudsen Cultural Center in honor of their support to the entire Danish community.

    Knudsen Biography from The Danish Lutheran Church of Southern California 100 Years - A Century of Trials and Triumphs

    Photos of portrait and bust from the Tom and Valley Knudsen Cultural Center

    • September 15, 2021
    • (CDT)
    • September 15, 2022
    • (CDT)
    • 3 sessions


    Deadlines for Submission: April 15 and September 15

    The Danish American Heritage Society is pleased to offer grants to qualified researchers for study in area of common interest. Bodtker Grants provide stipends of up to $5,000 for students or graduates interested in exploring  topics related to Danish history and heritage in North America. 

    A Bodtker Grant is primarily intended for research and internship at Danish American Archive and Library in Blair, Nebraska; the Danish American Archive at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa; or the Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn, Iowa. At the Board's discretion, proposals involving other Danish cultural and archival institutions may be considered.

    Deadlines: April 15 (Notification: May) or September 15(Notification: October)
    Stipend Amount: Up to $5,000

    Grant Application

    DAHS Website

    • December 01, 2021
    • (CST)
    • December 01, 2024
    • (CST)
    • 4 sessions


    The Danish Sisterhood of America was founded on December 1, 1883 by Christine Hemmingsen, a Danish immigrant from Orup, Denmark. Inspired by the success of the Danish Brotherhood of America, Mrs. Hemmingsen established Christine Lodge #1 in Negaunee, Michigan. The Danish Sisterhood of today continues to grow with numerous lodges located throughout the United States and Canada.

    The Danish culture is rich – its history long and distinguished, going back thousands of years. Membership in the Danish Sisterhood of America is a wonderful opportunity to connect with your Danish heritage, learn more about Danish customs and traditions, and strengthen your connection to Denmark. A cordial invitation is extended to you to join the largest national Danish organization dedicated to preserving and sharing these deeply rooted traditions. 

    Danish Sisterhood History

    Danish Sisterhood Website

    • January 12, 2022
    • (PST)
    • January 12, 2023
    • (PST)
    • 2 sessions
    • Solvang, California


    On Jan. 12, 1911, nearly 9,000 acres of land were purchased for a new Danish colony in the Santa Ynez Valley. Within a month, settlers began to arrive and a name was selected for the new town: Solvang, literally “sunny field” in Danish.

    2021 "Skål Solvang" Year Long Event

    The Danes who eventually founded Solvang were a part of the great 19th-century European exodus to the United States. Neither Denmark’s agricultural communities nor industrial cities could successfully employ the burgeoning lower and middle classes, and by 1881 emigration was in full swing. All in all, between 1865 and 1914 some 300,000 Danes headed to the United States.

          Many Danes, determined to remain true to their agricultural roots, settled in the American Midwest, sometimes clustering in Danish colonies in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Nebraska, as well as in Montana and Texas. But these immigrants were a restless crew. When they saw new opportunities and greater prosperity in the West, many pulled up stakes and moved to Washington and California.

    One of the most enthusiastic proponents of the Danish approach to religion and education was Benedict Nordentoft, who was born in Brabrand near Aarhus in 1873. After graduating in theology in 1898, he was soon tempted to travel to the United States, where he began coordinating relations between Danish Lutheran churches in Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine. In 1901, he returned to Denmark specifically to be ordained in Aarhus Cathedral. Back in America, he continued his work as a lecturer at Grand View College, a folk high school in Des Moines, Iowa, which was also set up by the Danish Lutheran Church. He was appointed president in 1903, a post which he held until 1910, when disagreements with his Grundtvigian colleagues forced him to resign.

    From 1906, Nordentoft, together with Jens M. Gregersen, a pastor from Kimballton, Iowa, and Peder P. Hornsyld, a lecturer at Grand View, had discussed the possibility of creating a new Danish colony with a dedicated Lutheran church and school on the west coast. In 1910, together with other Danish-Americans, they created the Danish-American Colony Corporation in San Francisco. Later that year, suitable land was found in the Santa Ynez Valley northwest of Santa Barbara. On January 12th, the Danes purchased almost 9,000 acres (36 km2) of the Rancho San Carlos de Jonata land grant, paying an average of $40 per acre.

    Among the other early arrivals with Mads Frese were Mr. and Mrs. Sophus Olsen, Hans Skytt, John Petersen and John Ahrenkild. Skytt was to play an important role as the carpenter, who constructed many of Solvang's early buildings. The first to be constructed was a hotel close to the Mission where new arrivals could be housed. Gregersen became president of the Danish-American Colony Company, and Nordentoft was named head and Hornsyld a teacher at the school, which opened on November 15, 1911, with 21 students. 

    More Solvang History from the Elverhøj Museum of History and Art...

    Elverhøj Museum Website

    • January 17, 2022
    • (CST)
    • January 17, 2023
    • (CST)
    • 2 sessions


    Benedict Nordentoft (17 January 1873 – 12 December 1942) was a Danish educator and cleric, principally remembered for the years he spent in Solvang, California, where he and his colleagues established a Danish community with a Lutheran church and a folk high school.

    Photo: Nordentoft was the 3rd President of Grand View College 1903 - 1910

    Benedict Nordentoft was born in the rectory at Brabrand, a town just west of Aarhus, Denmark, on 17 January 1873. He was the seventh of the thirteen gifted children raised by Pastor Peter Nordentoft and Vincentia Christiane Michelsen.  In the footsteps of the famous theologian and philosopher N. F. S. Grundtvig, from the age of 11 he attended the Aarhus Cathedral School before studying theology at Copenhagen University. Later he would comment: "Although I was often moved by the sermons of Grundtvigian priests and although many of my student friends were Grundtvigians, I have never been able to accept Grundtvig's excessively dogmatic views." After graduating with honours in 1898, he became a substitute teacher at Herlufsholm School before becóming a tutor for Count Brockenhuus-Schack's eldest son in Ringsted in 1899.

    Though pleased with his position, he could not resist the urge to go to America where he had been offered a post as a lecturer at Grand View College, a Danish seminary and folk high school in Des Moines, Iowa, believing that America would open up new horizons for him.

    One of his first tasks as a lecturer at Grand View was to coordinate relations between Danish Lutheran churches in Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine. In the summer of 1901, he returned to Denmark specifically to be ordained in Aarhus Cathedral. Back in America, he continued his work as a lecturer at Grand View. In 1903, when he was only 30 years old, he became the college's third president, a post which he held until 1910.  That year, as a result of differences with his colleagues at the college who were far more Grundtvigian than he, Nordentoft was pressured to leave.

    From 1906, Nordentoft together with Jens M. Gregersen, a pastor from Kimballton, Iowa, and Peder P. Hornsyld, a lecturer at Grand View, had discussed the possibility of creating a new Danish colony with a dedicated Lutheran church and school on the west coast.  In 1910, together with other Danish-Americans, they created the Danish-American Colony Company in San Francisco. Later that year, their land agent, Mads J. Frese, found suitable land in the Santa Ynez Valley northwest of Santa Barbara. On 23 January 1911, the contract was signed and Solvang was founded. The Danes had bought almost 9,000 acres of the Rancho San Carlos de Jonata land grant, paying an average of $40 per acre.

    Soon after the establishment of Solvang, a school was opened with 21 students on 15 November 1911 with Nordentoft as president.

    At the end of 1912 when it became almost impossible to sell any more plots of land, the company's income was vastly reduced. The shareholders persuaded Gregersen to give up his position as Solvang's pastor and travel to Iowa and Nebraska to convince Danish immigrants to buy land in the new colony. He enjoyed considerable success, relieving the colony of any further threats. After Gregersen's departure, Nordentoft became the pastor. Before long, Solvang also had a store, a bank, a lumber yard, a barbershop and a post office with Hornsyld as postmaster. Where there had just been fields, there was now a small town.

    Nordentoft was not content with the little school established in Solvang. When he was unable to convince his Danish colleagues that a larger educational institution was needed, he bought them out and started to raise funds for a bigger and better school. The following year, in August 1914, a rejsegilde, or topping-out ceremony, was held for the impressive new building which Nordentoft called Atterdag College in memory of Valdemar Atterdag who did much to consolidate the kingdom of Denmark in the 14th century.

    Photo: Atterdag College

    What surprised many of those who came to the celebration was the great similarity the building had with Grand View College. Standing on a hilltop with a commanding view of the village, the new college or folk high school was designed to teach Danish-speaking students in their late teens how to lead more meaningful lives with an emphasis on lectures, singing, gymnastics, folk dancing and fellowship. A difficult period followed as World War I put a stop to Danish emigration to America leading to a reduction in the number of young people requiring a school education. It also became difficult to maintain a Danish-speaking school at a time when American nationalism was steadily growing.

    On 26 April 1918 when he was 45, Nordentoft married 20-year-old Mary Hansine Christiansen, the daughter of a Danish farmer from Newell, Iowa, and one of his earlier students. By 1921, the family had two children and a third was on the way. Nordentoft, who felt he had achieved his ambitions in America and wished to have his children educated in Denmark, sold the college to the congregation of Solvang's Bethania Church in 1921 for $5,000. He then returned to Denmark with his wife and family.

    Back in Denmark in 1921, he was first a priest in Tranebjerg on Samsø, then in Mariager and in March 1926 he became pastor of St Nicolai Church in Kolding. The family who raised no less than 11 children were always very welcoming to anyone who wished to visit them at the rectory in Hyrdestræde. All the children were given the middle name Atterdag in memory of the college.

    Nordentoft not only taught at the high school in Kolding but became a popular public speaker in the area, thanks to his entertaining and humorous delivery. He often spoke affectionately about his years in America and was active on the committee for the Danish-American Mission. In 1941, he was awarded the Order of the Dannebrog for his services to Danish-American relations.

    Benedict Nordentoft died in Kolding on 12 December 1942. A few years later, the authorities in Solvang decided to name two streets in his memory: Nordentoft Way and Kolding Avenue. - Wikipedia

    • February 05, 2022
    • (CST)
    • February 05, 2023
    • (CST)
    • 2 sessions
    • Denmark


    Mary Elizabeth, Her Royal Highness Crown Princess, Crown Princess of Denmark, Countess of Monpezat

    Born:  Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary was born on 5 February 1972 in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

    On 14 May 2004, on the occasion of her marriage to His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, she became Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary Elizabeth of Denmark. The marriage ceremony took place in Copenhagen Cathedral, and the wedding festivities were held at Fredensborg Palace.

    Family Photo: Franne Voigt 

    Children:  HRH Prince Christian Valdemar Henri John, born on 15 October 2005, HRH Princess Isabella Henrietta Ingrid Margrethe, born on 21 April 2007, HRH Prince Vincent Frederik Minik Alexander, born on 8 January 2011 and HRH Princess Josephine Sophia Ivalo Mathilda, born on 8 January 2011.

    Family:  The Crown Princess is the youngest daughter of John Dalgleish Donaldson, who was born in Scotland on 5 September 1941. He is a Professor of Applied Mathematics. Her mother was Mrs. Henrietta Clark Donaldson, born 12 May 1942.  
    The couple were married in Edinburgh, Scotland on 31 August 1963 and emigrated to Australia in November that year. They became Australian citizens in 1975. Crown Princess Mary’s mother worked as the Executive Assistant to the Vice Chancellor of The University of Tasmania. Henrietta Clark Donaldson died 20 November 1997.  On 5 September 2001, Professor John Donaldson married Susan Elizabeth Donaldson (née Horwood), an author from Britain. The Crown Princess has two sisters and a brother: Jane Alison Stephens, born 26 December 1965, Patricia Anne Bailey, born 16 March 1968, and John Stuart Donaldson, born 9 July 1970.

    Crown Princess Mary's biography on The Royal House website - 

    HRH The Crown Princess

    • April 01, 2022
    • (CDT)
    • April 01, 2024
    • (CDT)
    • 3 sessions


    Deadline for Submission: April 15

    The Danish American Heritage Society is pleased to offer grants to qualified researchers for study in area of common interest. Bodtker Grants provide stipends of up to $5,000 for students or graduates interested in exploring  topics related to Danish history and heritage in North America. 

    A Bodtker Grant is primarily intended for research and internship at Danish American Archive and Library in Blair, Nebraska; the Danish American Archive at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa; or the Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn, Iowa. At the Board's discretion, proposals involving other Danish cultural and archival institutions may be considered.

    Deadlines: April 15 (Notification: May) or September 15(Notification: October)
    Stipend Amount: Up to $5,000

    Grant Application

    DAHS Website

    • April 02, 2022
    • (CDT)
    • April 02, 2023
    • (CDT)
    • 2 sessions

    Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)
    , Danish author and poet, wrote many poems, plays, stories and travel essays, but is best known for his fairy tales of which there are over one hundred and fifty, published in numerous collections during his life and many still in print today.

    His first collection of Fairy Tales, Told for Children was published in 1835. He broke new ground for Danish literature with his style and use of idiom, irony and humor, memorable characters and un-didactic moral teaching inspired by the primitive folk tales he had learned as a child. Though they do not all end happily his Fairy Tales resound with an authenticity that only unabashed sincerity can produce from a man who could still see through a child’s eyes;

    “Thousands of lights were burning on the green branches, and gaily-colored pictures, such as she had seen in the shop-windows, looked down upon her. The little maiden stretched out her hands towards them when--the match went out. The lights of the Christmas tree rose higher and higher, she saw them now as stars in heaven; one fell down and formed a long trail of fire.” —from “The Little Match Girl”

    Andersen’s fairy tales of fantasy with moral lessons are popular with children and adults all over the world, and they also contain autobiographical details of the man himself. Born on 2 April, 1805 in Odense, on the Danish island of Funen, Denmark, he was the only son of washerwoman Anna Maria Andersdatter (d.1833) and shoemaker Hans Andersen (d.1816). They were very poor, but Hans took his son to the local playhouse and nurtured his creative side by making him his own toys. Young Hans grew to be tall and lanky, awkward and effeminate, but he loved to sing and dance, and he had a vivid imagination that would soon find its voice.  - The Literature Network

    HC Andersen Website
    by The University of Southern Denmark, Odense
    (In Danish and English)

    This Hans Christian Andersen Museum Asks You to Step Into a Fairy Tale

    Opening soon in the storyteller’s hometown of Odense, Denmark, the museum allows visitors to experience his multilayered stories

    Livia Gershon

    Kreditering Kengo Kuma and Associates, Cornelius Vöge, MASU planning (2).jpg“It’s not a historical museum,” Henrik Lübker says. “It’s more an existential museum.” (Kengo Kuma and Associates, Cornelius Vöge, MASU planning)

    March 2, 2021

    Most museums dedicated to a specific historical figure aim to teach visitors about that person. But, the new H.C. Andersen's House, scheduled to open this summer in Denmark, is an exception to the rule.

    The museum’s creative director, Henrik Lübker, says the museum in Odense is designed not to showcase Andersen’s life and his classic stories like “The Little Mermaid” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” but to echo the sensibility of a fairy tale writer who rarely offered his audience simple lessons.

    “It’s not a historical museum,” he says. “It’s more an existential museum.”

    Renderings of the museum, which includes 60,000 square feet of building space plus 75,000 square feet of gardens, all designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kumareveal that it is full of curves. Labyrinthine hedges almost merge with sinuous wooden pavilions, blurring the line between nature and architecture. A long ramp leads underground only to reveal an unexpected garden.

    “It’s kind of like a universe where nothing is quite as it seems,” Lübker says. “Everything you thought you knew can be experienced anew.”

    Kreditering Kengo Kuma and Associates, Cornelius Vöge, MASU planning (1).jpgRenderings of the museum, designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, reveal that it is full of curves. (Kengo Kuma and Associates, Cornelius Vöge, MASU planning)

    Andersen’s own story has a fairy-tale arc. He was born in 1805 to a mother who worked as a washerwoman in Odense. Yet he dreamed of being a famous writer. He persistently pursued theater directors and potential benefactors, eventually winning help from a wealthy family to continue his education and learn to function in sophisticated circles.

    “For a long time he was notorious for being a preposterous young man who came from a dirt poor family,” says Jack Zipes, literature professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota and author of Hans Christian Andersen: The Misunderstood Storyteller.

    Despite setbacks—his first poetry and novels were, in Zipes’ words, “not very good, and in fact terrible”—Andersen persisted in seeking recognition for his work. When he eventually wrote “The Ugly Duckling” in 1843, Zipes says, it was clear to everyone in Denmark’s small literary circles that it was a work of autobiography. It’s easy to imagine the experiences that might have led Andersen to describe the tribulations of the little swan, who, according to another duck, was “too big and strange, and therefore he needs a good whacking.”

    Hans Christian AndersenPortrait of Hans Christian Andersen in 1862 (Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

    Andersen’s own emergence as something close to a respected swan of an author came after he began publishing fairy tales in 1835. Unlike the Brothers Grimm—contemporaries whom Andersen admired—he did not collect folk tales but instead adapted existing stories or wrote his own from scratch. According to Maria Tatar, professor emeritus at Harvard University and author of The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen, Andersen most likely learned some of the basic plots he used, as well as storytelling techniques, while spending time in spinning rooms and other workplaces his mother shared with women when he was a child. Although his first story collection, published in 1835, was titled Fairy Tales Told for Children, he always noted that he was writing for a multigenerational audience, including many jokes and ideas that would have gone over kids’ heads.

    While some of his stories have apparent moral lessons, many are more ambiguous, or subversive, particularly in terms of relations between the social classes. In “The Tinderbox,” published in 1835, a spiteful common soldier ultimately takes revenge against a king and queen who imprisoned him by having huge dogs rip them and their entire court to shreds before marrying the princess and becoming king himself.

    “It has nothing to do with being of moral stature,” Lübker says. “It’s all about power. If you have the dogs, people will say ‘of course you can be king, you have the power.’”

    Tatar says it’s possible to see the stories through many different lenses. When she taught Andersen’s work to students, she used to focus on the disciplinary aspects of his stories, in which characters often face terrible punishments for their misdeeds. “After class, there was always a group of three or four—they tended to be young women—who came up to me, and they said ‘but his fairy tales are so beautiful,’” she says.

    That led her to begin focusing her attention in a different way. For example, in “The Little Match Girl” from 1845, an impoverished, abused girl freezes to death on the street on New Year’s Eve. But, as she lights one match after another, she sees luminous visions of warm rooms, abundant food and her loving grandmother.

    “She is something of an artist in terms of giving us an inner world,” Tatar says. “I started to see that [Andersen] really gives us these moving pictures, and it’s not just their beauty that gets us hooked, I think, but also an ethic of empathy—we’re moved by these images. We start to care about them. And it makes us curious about the inner lives of his characters.”

    Kreditering Kengo Kuma and Associates, Cornelius Vöge, MASU planning (1).pngVisitors can look up at a glass ceiling through a pool of water and see people up in the garden.(Kengo Kuma and Associates, Cornelius Vöge, MASU planning)

    Lübker says the exhibits in the museum are designed to elicit that kind of engagement with the stories. In an area devoted to “The Little Mermaid,” visitors can look up at a glass ceiling through a pool of water and see people up in the garden, and the sky above them.

    “You can’t talk to them, because they’re separated from you,” Lübker says. “You can lie down on pillows on the floor and you can hear the mermaid’s sisters tell about the first time they were up there. We hope we can create this sense of longing for something else in the visitor.”

    Another part of the museum sets out to recreate the ominous ambiance of “The Shadow,” a fairy tale Andersen wrote in 1847 in which a good man’s evil shadow eventually replaces and destroys him. Visitors see what at first appears to be their shadows behaving just as they normally do, until they suddenly begin acting on their own. “I think it would ruin the experience if I went too much into detail,” says Lübker.

    “They’re very deep stories, and there are many layers to them,” Lübker adds. “Instead of just giving one interpretation, we want to create them in a sense where people can really feel something that is deeper and richer than what their memory of the story is.”

    Kreditering Odense Bys Museer (3).jpgThe project has a footprint of more than 95,000 square feet. (Odense Bys Museer)

    The museum’s architect, Kengo Kuma, known for designing Tokyo’s new National Stadium, built for the 2020 Summer Olympics (now scheduled to be held in 2021), shies away from the view of a building as an autonomous object, Lübker explains. “Architecture for him is kind of like music,” Lübker says. “It’s like a sequence: How you move through space, what you experience. It’s about that meeting between you and the architecture.”

    Plans for the museum go back to around 2010, when Odense decided to close off a main thoroughfare that previously divided the city center. The project’s large footprint currently contains the existing, much smaller, Hans Christian Andersen Museum, the Tinderbox Cultural Centre for Children, the building where Andersen was born and Lotzes Have, park themed after Andersen. The city chose Kuma’s firm, which is working together with Danish collaborators Cornelius+Vöge Architects, the MASU Planning Landscape Architects and Eduard Troelsgård Engineers, through a competitive process. In a separate competition, Event Communication of Britain was chosen to design the museum’s exhibitions.

    Hans Christian Andersen birthplaceAndersen's birthplace is situated within the museum. (Jörg Carstensen/picture alliance via Getty Images)

    The museum is situated with Andersen’s birthplace as its cornerstone so that visitors’ journeys will end in the room where he is said to have been born. It will also work to connect visitors to other Odense attractions related to Andersen, including his childhood home where he lived until moving to Copenhagen at age 14 to pursue his career in the arts. “Inspired by Boston’s Freedom Trail, we have physical footprints that allow you to walk in the footsteps of Andersen around the city from location to location,” says Lübker.

    Due to continuing pandemic-related travel restrictions, Lübker says, when the museum opens this summer, its first visitors may be mostly from within Denmark. But it expects to eventually draw guests from around the world thanks to Andersen’s global popularity.

    Hans Christian Andersen childhood homeThe storyteller's childhood home, where he lived until moving to Copenhagen at age 14 to pursue his career in the arts, is also in Odense. (Dea/B. Annebicque/Getty Images)

    Tatar notes that Andersen’s fairy tales have been translated into numerous languages and are very popular in China and across Asia, among other places. Artists have also reworked them into uncountable films, picture books and other forms over the decades. The Disney movie Frozen, for example, uses “The Snow Queen as the source material for a radically transformed story about sisterly love—which, in turn, has been claimed by LGBTQ and disabled communities as a celebration of openly embracing one’s unique qualities. “The core is still there, but it becomes something entirely new that is relevant to what we think about today,” Tatar says.

    At the time of Andersen’s death in 1875, the 70-year-old was an internationally recognized writer of iconic stories. But he couldn’t have known how fondly he would be remembered almost 150 years later.

    “He never lost the feeling that he was not appreciated enough,” Zipes says. “He would jump for joy to go back to Odense and see this marvelous museum that’s been created in his honor.”

    • April 16, 2022
    • (CDT)
    • April 16, 2023
    • (CDT)
    • 2 sessions
    • Fredensborg Palace, Denmark


    From The Royal Danish House website - Once again this year, Her Majesty The Queen’s birthday on 16 April will be marked differently than usual. Like last year, The Queen will spend the day at Fredensborg Palace, where the birthday will be celebrated privately.

    When Her Majesty The Queen turned 80 years old almost a year ago, the day turned out to be different than planned. In light of the situation with COVID-19 in the Danish society, the round birthday was celebrated at Fredensborg Palace with digital congratulations from inside Denmark and abroad, joint singing and Her Majesty’s address to the Danish people in the evening. One year later, the situation with COVID-19 continues to mean that The Queen’s birthday must be celebrated differently than the traditional way. Her Majesty and the royal family will therefore not come out on the balcony during the changing of the guard at Amalienborg at 12:00 noon this year. Instead, The Queen will celebrate the day privately at Fredensborg Palace.  

    However, it will still be possible to send The Queen a birthday greeting via the Royal Danish House’s digital platforms. On the morning of 16 April, a congratulations list will be set up on the Royal Danish House’s website, where it will be possible to send personal felicitations to The Queen. Due to the continued spread of COVID-19, it will not be possible to show up physically at Det Gule Palæ at Amalienborg to handwrite a greeting for Her Majesty. The birthday will be marked throughout the day on the Royal Danish House’s social media and website. 


    Margrethe Alexandrine Þorhildur Ingrid, Her Majesty The Queen, became Queen of Denmark in 1972. Margrethe II was born on 16 April 1940 at Amalienborg Palace as the daughter of King Frederik IX (d. 1972) and Queen Ingrid, born Princess of Sweden (d. 2000)

    Foto: Per Morten Abrahamsen

    The Queen’s motto is "God’s help, the love of The People, Denmark’s strength".

    The Royal Family comprises Her Majesty The Queen’s relatives, including HRH Princess Benedikte and Her Majesty Queen Anne-Marie.

    Christening and confirmation:  HM The Queen was christened on 14 May 1940 in Holmens Kirke (the Naval Church) and confirmed on 1 April 1955 at Fredensborg Palace.

    The Act of Succession:  The Act of Succession of 27 March 1953 gave women the right of succession to the Danish throne but only secondarily. On the occasion of her accession to the throne on 14 January 1972, HM Queen Margrethe II became the first Danish Sovereign under the new Act of Succession.  In 2009, The Act of Succession was amended so that the eldest child (regardless of gender) succeeds to the throne.

    A seat on the State Council:  On 16 April 1958, the Heir Apparent, Princess Margrethe, was given a seat on the State Council, and she subsequently chaired the meetings of the State Council in the absence of King Frederik IX.

    Wedding:  On 10 June 1967, the Heir Apparent married Henri Marie Jean André, Count of Laborde de Monpezat, who in connection with the marriage became Prince Henrik of Denmark. The wedding ceremony took place in Holmens Kirke, and the wedding festivities were held at Fredensborg Palace. Prince Henrik passed away on 13 February 2018.

    Children:  HRH Crown Prince Frederik André Henrik Christian, born 26 May 1968, and HRH Prince Joachim Holger Waldemar Christian, born 7 June 1969.

    2020 Birthday Address to the Public:
    English Translation
    April 16, 2020

    More Information:

    Royal House Website

    • April 17, 2022
    • (CDT)
    • April 20, 2025
    • (CDT)
    • 4 sessions


    Easter, also called Påske (Danish) or Resurrection Sunday, is a festival and holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day after his burial following his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD. It is the culmination of the Passion of Jesus, preceded by Lent (or Great Lent), a 40-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.

    Most Christians refer to the week before Easter as "Holy Week", which contains the days of the Easter Triduum, including Maundy Thursday, commemorating the Maundy and Last Supper, as well as Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus. In Western ChristianityEastertide, or the Easter Season, begins on Easter Sunday and lasts seven weeks, ending with the coming of the 50th day, Pentecost Sunday. In Eastern Christianity, the season of Pascha begins on Pascha and ends with the coming of the 40th day, the Feast of the Ascension.

    Easter and the holidays that are related to it are moveable feasts which do not fall on a fixed date in the Gregorian or Julian calendars which follow only the cycle of the Sun; rather, its date is offset from the date of Passover and is therefore calculated based on a lunisolar calendar similar to the Hebrew calendar. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established two rules, independence of the Jewish calendar and worldwide uniformity, which were the only rules for Easter explicitly laid down by the council. No details for the computation were specified; these were worked out in practice, a process that took centuries and generated a number of controversies. It has come to be the first Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or soonest after 21 March. Even if calculated on the basis of the more accurate Gregorian calendar, the date of that full moon sometimes differs from that of the astronomical first full moon after the March equinox.

    Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism, as well as by its position in the calendar. In most European languages the feast is called by the words for passover in those languages; and in the older English versions of the Bible the term Easter was the term used to translate passover.  Easter customs vary across the Christian world, and include sunrise services, exclaiming the Paschal greetingclipping the church, and decorating Easter eggs (symbols of the empty tomb). The Easter lily, a symbol of the resurrection, traditionally decorates the chancel area of churches on this day and for the rest of Eastertide.  Additional customs that have become associated with Easter and are observed by both Christians and some non-Christians include egg hunting, the Easter Bunny, and Easter parades. There are also various traditional Easter foods that vary regionally.

    Here's What You Need to Know About Danish Easter Traditions

    Aliki Seferou

    Danish traditions, Easter Eggs

    Danish traditions, Easter Eggs | © andreas160578 / Pixabay

    Easter is celebrated in different ways in countries all over the globe and so, Denmark has its own traditions. If you’re visiting the country this time of the year and want to be prepared or just want to get an idea of what Danes love to do when celebrating Easter, this guide has everything you need. Gækkebreve, a lot of food, snaps and chocolate eggs are some of the things that are never absent from the Danish Easter.

    Celebrating springtime

    During Easter, Danes celebrate mostly the arrival of springtime and with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday being national holidays, they find Easter as a good opportunity for a short escape to their summer houses. It’s not very common for Danes to attend church during Easter and there aren’t any special religious events taking place during the holy week. So, don’t expect to see grandiose celebrations like the ones during Semana Santa in Seville or processions like Epitaphio that takes place in Greece on Good Friday.

    Danish countryside in spring | © Per Ganrot / Flickr


    The weeks before Easter every child in Denmark that wants to get an extra Easter chocolate egg writes and sends gækkebrev. The senders of gækkebrevemust write a ‘teaser poem’ on a paper and then sign it with a number of dots equal to their names’ letters. Children are called to use their imagination and cut the paper into different shapes, include a snowdrop (vintergække), which is the first flower of the year, and make sure that their poem rhymes. If the recipient of the letter guesses who sent him the gækkebrev then the sender must give him an Easter chocolate egg and if not, then the other way around. Since usually the senders are children and the recipients are adults, it’s an unwritten rule and almost part of the tradition that the receivers never manage to guess the person behind the ‘fool’s letter’.

    Danish Easter tradition,Gækkebreve | © Nillerdk / Wikimedia Commons

    Eggs, eggs and eggs

    Eggs are part of Easter traditions in many countries and Denmark is no exception. Many houses are decorated with fake yellow or green eggs while chocolate eggs and boiled chicken’s eggs dyed in different colours never miss from the Easter lunch table. Many Danes hide chocolate eggs in their gardens for children to find on Easter Sunday, keeping a tradition that dates back to the early 2oth century alive.

    Tivoli Easter Eggs Decoration | © David Jones / Flickr

    Easter lunch

    Celebrating without a big table filled with delicacies, beer and snaps it’s not a proper celebration for Danes regardless the time of the year. For the Sunday Easter lunch, locals prepare lamb, boiled eggs, herring and other kinds of fish such as salmon. The special Easter beer, which is brewed only this time of the year, is, according to beer specialists, heavier and tastier than common beers so it’s a must to have it on the festive table. Finally, even though Easter lunch starts from early afternoon, all guests have to drink at least one traditional Danish snap. The high-levelled alcohol spirits must be drunk in one gulp after everyone has raised their glasses, yelling, “Skål” and Easter wishes.

    Danish Easter lunch | © Andreas Hagerman / Flickr

    • May 04, 2022
    • (CDT)
    • May 04, 2023
    • (CDT)
    • 2 sessions


    4 May 1945 was the day when the Danes got the message on the radio about the liberation of Denmark from Germany during Second World War, after the German occupation since 9 April 1940. This meant that the Danes no longer had to use heavy black curtains to keep the light from getting out of their houses. People flocked into the streets, waving the Danish flag “Dannebro” and burned their black curtains. Many lighted candles on their windows.

    June 1944 Invasion Issue of Danish Resistance publication "De Frie Danske" titled 'The Free Danes Welcome our Allied Friends' with a four colored front page photo of one US and one British rifleman each in front of their national flags...

    De Frie Danske

    Therefore, if you see candles on the windows in the evening of 4 May, it is because Danes celebrate and commemorate this day.
    The message about the Danish liberation went out on 4 May, but the official liberation day is 5 May. It is celebrated with flags in flagpoles and on top of the busses.

    May 5

    • May 05, 2022
    • (CDT)
    • May 05, 2023
    • (CDT)
    • 2 sessions
    • Denmark


    On May 5, Denmark celebrates
     Liberation Day. It is the anniversary of the end of the occupation of Denmark by Nazi Germany. Liberation Day is not a public holiday, but special events are held on the occasion.

    Denmark was occupied by Nazi Germany on April 9, 1940. The country capitulated withing six hours. As Denmark did not put up much resistance, its occupation was unusually lenient. For example, most institutions functioned relatively normally until 1943. Both the king and government remained in the country.

    However, German authorities eventually did dissolve the government after the August 1943 crisis. Mass arrests began. By the end of the war, Danish resistance movement developed. When German authorities ordered to arrest and deport Danish Jews, members of the resistance evacuated almost all Jews to Sweden.

    The German forces withdrew from Denmark on May 5, 1945 following their surrender to the Allies. The anniversary of this event is now celebrated as Liberation Day. On the day, public ceremonies are held in memory of the fallen members of the Danish resistance movement. Left-wing organizations sometimes hold demonstrations to remember the communist resistance fighters.

    May 4

    More Information

    May 1945 Video

    This movie reel shows scenes from Copenhagen in the days following the liberation of Denmark in May 1945. Accord to the National Museum of Denmark, this film was recorded between May 5 1945 and May 12 1945. Among other scenes, the following is shown (according to the National Museum of Denmark): Unrest at Dagmarhus guarded by German soldiers (May 5), resistance fighters behind cover during combat at the harbor, british troops’ arrival through Vesterbrogade (May 8), and Field Marshall Montgomery at Langelinie (May 12).

    This film is a part of the archive of The National Museum of Denmark, in which the recordings are titled “Film: Privatoptagelser fra befrielsesdagene 1945 i København“. The archive has noted the following informations (and more): Description: “Optagelser fra dagene 5. - 12. maj i København. Bl.a. opløb d. 5/5 ved Dagmarhus, som stadig bevogtes af tyske soldater. Modstandsfolk i dækning under træfninger i havnen. Britiske landtroppers ankomst ad Vesterbrogade 8/5 fotograferet fra en af de britiske biler. Feltmarksal Montogomery ved Langelinie 12/5. 16 mm. Stum. 14:05.” License: “No known rights” Photographer/creator: “Ukendt” Time of recording: “5. maj 1945 – 12. maj 1945” City: “København”
    • June 05, 2022
    • (CDT)
    • June 05, 2023
    • (CDT)
    • 2 sessions
    • Denmark


    The throne of Denmark was established in the tenth century and is the oldest in Europe and third oldest in the world. Through to the seventeenth century, the majority of decisions in Danish rule came through the monarchy and each monarch was obliged to sign the Haandfæstning wherein he promised to rule fairly.

    In 1660, Denmark became a constitutional monarchy, effectively removed the monarchy from absolute power and putting decision making into the hands of the leaders of government. From this time, aside from the royal power of the king, three types of powers existed in Denmark: legislative, executive and judicial.

    Including the signing of the first constitution, five constitutions have been written and signed: 1849, 1866, 1915, 1920 and 1953. None of these had amendments but each was superseded by the one following. On 5 June 1915, women received the right to vote.

    Many places hold festivals on Constitution Day and there are often political rallies. Students, graduates, bands and organisations march in parades behind the bright red and white of the Danish flag. The flag also dominates many buildings across the country.

    More Information (In Danish)

National Foundation for Danish America
PO Box 1003
Wilmette, Illinois 60091

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