Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Påskeferie Post

Prepare for a seriously broad generalization in 3...2...1...

The Danes are a bit funny about religion.

We're smack in the middle of "påskeferie," or Easter vacation, so I figured I'd take the time to discuss my impression of the Danish relationship with Christianity.

In the US, various forms of Christians make up the majority of the religions folk.  The same is true here in Denmark, where the state religion is Lutheran.  Nearly 80% of Danes count themselves among the Lutherans in the Church of Denmark.  The Danes themselves, however, are not especially religious.  Those that are will often state proudly how they go to church.  Once a year, for Christmas.

Now, I'm not a religious person.  Once a year is more than I normally go.  Then again, my own religions background is a bit of a hodgepodge including Catholicism, Judaism, Unitarianism, and a stint in high school when I decided I wanted to be a witch.

The Danes get funny about religion when it comes to their perceptions about how the rest of the Christian world handles their religious life.  A month or so ago, we were discussing the Danish tradition of "fastelavn," which is the Danish version of Mardi Gras or Carnivale.  Our teacher discussed how, "back in the olden day," fastelavn was the big party before a (gasp) 40-day period of occasional fasting!  But no one would do something as crazy as that these days, right?  Truly, she didn't seem to associate the holiday with anything that might be going on in other countries today and didn't seem at all aware of Lent.

As I said, I'm not a religious person.  And I have no issues with the level of religious life in Denmark.  I do, however, think that the Danes occasionally have a habit of assuming that the way things are done here are the norm.

As far as I can tell, though, as far as religion goes...

There is no "norm."


  1. I just explained to a few of my colleagues how my Mexican-American family celebrated Easter in Texas... and I think I gave them the impression that we were all freaking crazy.

    Three hours of Easter Mass with an hour long lunch in the rectory (along with priest and congregation), then off to the park for some family fun - BBQ, a rabbit shaped pinata that gets obliterated to shreds by 25 of your little cousins, and then the big EASTER EGG HUNT. There's nothing like the sound of excited screaming kids running to find the egg that has $20.

    I love and miss Easter in Houston, and today (6-years so far in Denmark),I spend this holiday watching Matador reruns. A huge difference from my old days of chaotic fun.

    Happy Easter ferie.

  2. The thing about Danes and religion is, that we really have no way of knowing if the rest of the world is doing it differently, because it's not polite to talk about religion ;-)
    I'm joking, of course, but only partly. Religion is just not on the radar for most people. We celebrate Christmas, because who doesn't need a bit of festivity in the middle of the dark of winter, and a lot of people use the church as a backdrop for things like weddings and funerals, but very few people are really religious. And since we don't really put much value into it, we tend to assume that other people dont either. So we don't ask, because it seems insignificant.

    1. So much of what's covered in international news is religion-based, especially with the newly chosen pope. Plus, all of the movies and television that come out of the US and the UK that is aired here, as well. It strikes me that the Danes would prefer to think of the world as not terribly religious, and so they do. And trust me, I also hold the opinion that it's often the most religious of people that cause the biggest problems (just look at the religious lunacy in the US when it comes to gay marriage, among other things). But it's difficult to ignore that there are more people out there who are deeply religious than the Danes like to think.