Christmas Countdown!

Posted on 30. Nov, 2014 by in Society, Traditions

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(Photo courtesy of Susanne Nilsson at Flickr, CC.)

I dag er det første søndag i advent. (Today’s the first Sunday of Advent.) That means that there are still three Sundays left – og så er det jul (and then it’s Christmas)! Mange danske familier (many Danish families) celebrate this by lighting the first out of four stearinlys (stearin candles) on a special adventskrans (Advent wreath). Every Sunday from now on yet another candle will join the party, with all four candles blazing on the last Sunday before jul. When your faithful blogger was a barn (child), we used to gather around adventskransen to sing julesange (Christmas carols). While I don’t think this is very common in Danmark, I guess there must be at least a handful of families keeping this tradition [trahdeeSHAWN]!

Hvorfor (why) is there so much fuss about Christmas in Denmark? Well, if you lived in a flat, windswept country with lots of dårligt vejr (bad weather) – not to mention de mørke, kolde vintre (the dark, cold winters) – wouldn’t you glæde dig til (look eagerly forward to) a bit of togetherness and celebration? (And that’s not to mention maden og gaverne, the food and the gifts! After all, Danes have to keep their reputation as livsnydere, ”enjoyers of life”!)

The real nedtælling (countdown) to julen (’the’ Christmas) began weeks ago. Already in oktober I saw Christmas products in butikkerne (the shops), and people started complaing it was too early! :-)

Tomorrow, when we officially enter ”julemåneden” (the Christmas month), all kinds of calendars help Danish børn og voksne (children and adults) count and overleve (survive) those dreadful 24 days until juleaften (Christmas Eve):

  • julekalender – a daily tv show that is often accompanied by a paper calendar where you open a luge/låge (both meaning ”hatch”) to find a new picture each day
  • chokoladejulekalender – a paper calendar with a daily piece of chocolate
  • kalenderlys – a candle with the numbers from 1 to 24; each day you ”burn away” the date
  • pakkekalender – a special gift calendar parents make for their children. Each morgen (morning), there’s a new pakke (parcel)!

So You Think You Can Lie?

Posted on 29. Nov, 2014 by in Daily Life, Fun

Det er koldt i november. (It’s cold in November.) Fortunately, the julefrokost (”Christmas lunch”) season has started in Denmark. That means plenty of opportunities to møde mennesker (meet people), drikke øl (drink beer) and … spille terninger (play dice)!

Here’s a terningespil (die game) that’s popular in Danish værtshuse [VARE-ts-hooseh] (pubs). A friend of mine calls it Løgn [loyn] (lie), but most people know it as…

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“DiceBox”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Tænkeboks (”think box”)

• You are tre eller fire spillere (three or four players – or more, but then it gets harder to keep count of all the dice!) Hver spiller har et raflebæger med fire terninger. (Each player has a dice cup with four dice.)

•  Hvem starter? (Who’s starting?) You decide, and at the same time decide if you want to go med uret [meth OO-oth] (clockwise, literally ’with the clock’) or mod uret (counterclockwise, ’against the clock’).

• Now everyone rafler (shakes their cup and casts the dice). Take a peek at your dice – but don’t show the others! :-)

• The whole point of the game is to fool people. You bet on how many dice of a kind there are on the table. For example, if you just rolled two femmere (⚄), you may reasonably say ”Der er fire femmere! (There are four number five!) The next player then has to make up her choice: Does she believe you or not? If she does believe you, she must raise the stakes. She can either raise the number of dots on each die – ”Der er fire seksere!” (There are four number six!) – or raise the amount of dice: ”Der er fem ens!” (There are five identical ones!), ”Der er fem treere!” (There are five number three!), and so on. To ens (two identical ones) is the lowest possible bid; each time a bid is passed on to a player, he has the choice of either raising the stakes or saying ”Det tror jeg ikke på!” (I don’t believe that!) In that case all the cups are lifted. If the previous player was lying, all the other players can now remove one of their dice from their cup. If the previous player was right, she can remove a die along with the other players, except for the doubter, who has lost and has to keep all his dice. The loser then starts a new round, and the game is played as long as there are dice left in the cups.

Ettere (⚀) are very good, as they’re wildcards! You can choose whichever value (between 2 and 6) you want them to have. Furthermore, if an etter makes a trappe (straight, literally ’staircase’, like ⚀ · ⚁ · ⚂) with all the other dice in a player’s cup, then all those dice are considered wildcards, and an extra ”invisible wildcard” is added: So, rolling an etter and a toer (⚁) is the same as rolling three ettere! If you’ve only got one die left, an etter is considered a straight – so it counts as two wildcards. So, if your opponent has only one die left, and you have only one die left, and your opponent says ”Der er tre ens!” (There are three identical!), she might be right…

Randers Ramblings

Posted on 31. Oct, 2014 by in Geography, History, Tourism

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Niels Ebbesen in Randers. (Photo courtesy of storebukkebruse at Flickr.)

Randers [RANNors] is a by (town, city) in Nordøstjylland (North Eastern Jutland), between the cities of Århus and Aalborg. This efterår (Autumn/Fall), I got a bit of work up there. I must say I’ve fallen in love with the city!

Randers lies next to Gudenåen, the only å (stream) in Denmark that’s wide enough to be considered a flod (river). It’s also very close to Djursland, Jyllands næse (Jutland’s ”nose”), which is as wild and hilly as it possibly gets in Denmark. For some reason, the Randers area is called Kronjylland (Crown Jutland). The locals I asked, didn’t know why.

What really attracts me is stemningen (the mood, the atmosphere). There are several gågader (pedestrian ways, literally ’walk-streets’), winding past little torve (squares) and kirker (churches). The streets are lined by small butikker (shops), cafeer (cafés) and gallerier (art galleries). Many of the bygninger (buildings) are nicely decorated with small figures etc. People seem to be less stressed than in Copenhagen or Århus, strolling through the gader (streets) as in an old movie.

All of a sudden, you leave the narrow streets and find yourself in a broad, sloping avenue [aveNEE], with plenty of air to breathe. It gave me a really ”French” feeling when I first saw it. :-) In the middle of the avenue you’ll find the biggest horse-without-a-rider you’ve ever seen: Den jyske Hingst (the Jutlandic stallion) by the sculptress Helen Schou.

Historically, Randers was known for its production of handsker (gloves) and reb (rope). A classic reklame (ad) had the text Hæng Dem ikke i Bagateller, brug Randers Reb! (”Don’t make a fuss over trifles, use rope from Randers!” This is a wordplay on ”hæng Dem ikke” – don’t hang yourself – and ”hæng Dem ikke i bagateller” – don’t worry about trivialities.)

Randers is also the home of Niels Ebbesen, who in 1340 became a national helt (hero) for killing a German greve (count) who had invaded Jutland with his hær (army). There’s a statue of Niels Ebbesen next to one of the churches.

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One of the domes of Randers Regnskov, as seen from afar. (Photo courtesy of Malene Thyssen at Wikimedia Commons.)

Finally, Randers is a famous destination for børnefamilier (children’s families), who go to see Randers Regnskov (Randers Rainforest). In the cold Danish winter you can enter these domes, and all of a sudden you find yourself in the company of tropical planter og dyr (plants and animals)…