Submitted by Clara Hernandez on the 2020 spring semester DIS program in Copenhagen, Denmark…
This week, I was lucky enough to get to experience a Danish birthday party, as well as some festivities for the upcoming Danish holiday of Fastelavn. Fastelavn is a holiday similar to our Halloween, in the sense that everyone enjoys dressing up and enjoying sweets.
My host mother Tina invited us to celebrate her 52nd birthday with her and her friends. In a truly Danish tradition, Tina had Denmark’s flag spread everywhere in the house. Mini ones stuck out of plants, they covered the napkins and plates also, which symbolizes their pride as Danes. Tina enjoys her birthday because it is always close to Fastelavn, so she is able to dress up every year. She kept it simple and had us all decorate masks to wear throughout the evening.
An interesting difference with dressing up in costume in Denmark is that is is not politically correct like it is in the United States. Some costumes that people (mainly children) will wear would be considered offensive to Americans, such as dressing as a Native American or even altering skin tones. I myself have not experienced this, but our program does make us aware that it may be a possibility that we will encounter it. From discussing the topic with different Danes such as various professors and Danes I have met when out and about, it seems the general consensus has been that when people dress up in costume, it is in admiration of whoever they are portraying, never offensively, which is a controversial viewpoint here in the United States. It is very interesting to be in a place where such a “hot-button” issue (like it is in the United States) is not so disputed.
I think it is very important, when coming into contact with issues such as this, that it is an entirely new culture and they have their own reasoning behind their actions. It is good to open the conversation and discuss both sides of the issue in order to gain a better cultural understanding.