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ETHNONYMS: Scandinavians (includes Faroese, Finns, Icelanders, Norwegians, and Swedes)


Identification. The Danes live in the country of Denmark and Danish is their national language. The state-affiliated church is Protestant, historically a branch of the Lutheran church. Danes outside of Denmark, particularly in the United States, tend to become highly assimilated, with almost no development of ethnic neighborhoods or enclaves. The term "Dane" (Danish "Dansker"), as the name of people living in what is now Denmark, can be traced to the early Middle Ages when the Old Nordic term "Danir" was in use. Between the ninth and eleventh centuries, Old English chronicles referred loosely to all Scandinavians who invaded England as Danes (Dena).

To comprehend Danish national character in our time it is necessary to look back to Denmark of the eighteenth Century. At that time, Danish cultural distinctiveness was not really evident on manorial estates or in towns. Aristocrats and burghers each lived in terms of Europe-wide cultural norms that tended to blur and diminish their uniqueness as Danes. A national identity was to be found, however, in the way of life of the majority of the population who lived on farms and in villages. The roots of a Danish identity reach deeply into peasant culture.

Location. Geographically, Denmark is the most northerly extension of the West European Plain, which projects into Scandinavia as the peninsula of Jutland. Jutland points northward toward Norway and Sweden. Denmark also includes several hundred islands. On the largest island, Zealand, the capital city of Copenhagen lies within view of Malmö on the southern shore of Sweden. Copenhagen is located on "The Sound" (Øresund), which narrowly separates Denmark from Sweden and which provides valuable, strategic shipping links between the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea.

Demography. Denmark has a population of 5.1 million. Probably because they number so few and live in propinquity with other nations, many Danes speak a second language. German was the most popular before World War II, but now it is English.

Linguistic Affiliation. Like most Europeans, the Danes speak an Indo-European language. The three most widely distributed branches of this family are the Romance languages, the Slavic languages, and the Germanic languages. Danish is a Germanic language, and thus it is less distantly related to German and Dutch than it is to other European languages such as French or Russian. However, it has its closest ties to neighboring Scandinavian languages. The oldest known example of a Scandinavian language is a Gothic translation of parts of the Bible surviving from the fourth century. The modern Scandinavian languages in addition to Danish are Norwegian, which many Danes can understand, as well as Swedish, Icelandic, and Faroese. Although Finns share in Scandinavian culture and a minority of Finns speak Swedish as their family tongue, the Finnish language as such is non-Indo-European.

History and Cultural Relations

Denmark was formerly a large nation. To the south, its Territory included Holstein and Schleswig, which were conquered by Germany in 1864. (Part of Schleswig was returned to Denmark through a referendum held after World War I.) To the northeast, it included the provinces of Scania, Halland, and Blekinge, which became the southernmost provinces of Sweden in 1660. Until 1814 Norway and Denmark were united under the Danish crown. Westward to the Atlantic Ocean, the Kingdom of Denmark includes the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Iceland acquired independent nation status after World War I, subject only to a personal union under the Danish crown. It became completely independent of Denmark in 1944.

Denmark is an industrialized, urbanized nation with virtually universal literacy. Danes are full participants in the International culture of the modern world. Denmark is a member of the European Community (Common Market). A century ago, most were peasants in what was then an impoverished developing nation. They were similar in culture to peasant villagers in neighboring Germany to the south and in Sweden and Norway to the north. Like the rest of Europe, however, the lives of some Danes of the nineteenth century, as well as of earlier times, were not shaped by peasant culture. Those who belonged to the ruling class lived on large estates, followed customs shared by aristocrats throughout Europe, and spoke either French or German in addition to Danish. They looked to the royal court of the king of Denmark for cultural leadership. Townspeople were also different in many aspects of culture, since they lived from crafts, merchandising, and service occupations rather than agriculture. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, German was widely spoken in Danish towns, but by the nineteenth century most spoke Danish as their family language. Culturally, they were influenced by town life in other parts of western Europe, particularly in Germany, since many artisans spent a year or more working abroad before returning to Denmark as journeymen. No comparable custom united Danish townswomen with women in other parts of Europe.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Denmark today relies upon a diversified economy based primarily on service industries, trade, and manufacturing. Less than 10 percent of the population engages in agriculture, fishing, and forestry. Danish agriculture is known for its cooperatives, particularly in the production of butter, cheese, eggs, bacon, and ham. Danish beer and snaps (aquavit) have acquired an international market. The fishing industry supplies markets in Europe beyond Denmark. In American stores one is most likely to encounter Danish marinated herring. From industrial enterprises products of modern design are shipped throughout the world, particularly Danish furniture, ceramics, and plastics. The Danes pioneered in producing furniture that was functional as well as handsome. They have designed chairs in response to studies of spinal biomechanics and have created tables to serve multiple purposes, such as those that convert to desks or collapse for storage against a wall in small apartments. For purposes of international trade, the Danes also have designed furniture to be shipped in disassembled, compact forms that make handling easy and save some shipping costs. The Danish merchant marine, growing out of their own interisland maritime needs, includes large shipping companies, such as the Maersk Lines, that constitute an important source of revenue for the nation. In collaboration with Sweden and Norway, Denmark also operates the Scandinavian Airline System (SAS) for international travel. Taxes are heavy in order to provide citizens with a wide range of welfare benefits that include excellent child care and school opportunities, extensive health benefits, and exceptional housing and care for the aged. Workers live very well by international Standards. Although housing is in short supply, most Danes can afford small houses or apartments, dress well, and drive their own automobiles.

Land Tenure and Division of Labor. In historic Denmark, peasants lived in a form of village settlement, known as the open field system, in which communalism was central. The village territory was divided into two or three large fields, in each of which every landholder possessed scattered plots. The unit of work was not the individual plot, however, but the large field. Because fields were worked as units, it was essential that villagers agree on the nature and timing of many of their activities. Meeting in a dwelling or at a central place in the village, they followed old customs for village decision making that were common throughout Denmark. Schedules were agreed upon and implemented. Although cattle were Individually owned, they were brought together daily to form single village herds, which grazed on the village common or on stubble left after fields were harvested. It was the custom for villagers to help individuals who fell sick. As a community, they supervised the use of communal facilities such as the meadow, commons, square, pond, hay field, and church. They cooperated in much of what they did, and a communal spirit was the product. By the nineteenth century, major agricultural reforms had changed the old peasant community. The chief reform was to abolish the common system by parceling out the village land. They also consolidated scattered holdings so that each villager ended up owning fields located more or less in one place. Individual management replaced communalism. Gradually, some landowners moved their farmsteads away from the village, resulting in a scattered settlement pattern of villages with interspersed farmsteads. Less fertile soils in western Jutland were settled by farmers who established isolated farmsteads rather than villages. During the nineteenth century, many other changes took place in association with these basic changes in land tenure and the division of labor. Yet, a sense of communalism persisted. Villages continued to manage their affairs by convening meetings of landowners. "Folk high schools," introduced by N. F. S. Grundtvig (1783-1872) and now found throughout Scandinavia, raised the level of education and prepared ordinary people fot participation in democratic government. Toward the end of the nineteenth century and during the first decades of the twentieth, communalism reasserted itself as Danish farmers distinguished themselves by their ability to submit individual wishes to group decisions and to form voluntary common-interest associations. The successful creation of farming cooperatives across the nation became one of the foundations of the modernization of Danish agriculture. Meanwhile, the government of the nation shifted to that of a democratic, constitutional monarchy.

Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kinship. Danish kinship nomenclature was and is bifurcate-collateral in type, differing from English primarily in that uncles, aunts, and grandparents are terminologically distinguished as father's side or mother's side, and blood relatives are always distinguished from relatives by marriage. For example, Danes distinguish father's brother from mother's brother and mother's mother from father's mother. They trace Descent bilaterally, but a patrilineal emphasis was visible in the inheritance of property primarily through the male line until recent times, when gender became less determinative. Aristocrats also demonstrate their patrilineal emphasis in the inheritance of family names through the male line. Peasants did not get family names until late in the nineteenth century. Until then, one simply got the name of one's father. Thus Peter Rasmussen was the son of Rasmus Andersen, who in turn was the son of Anders Jensen, and so on. Daughters took the last names of their fathers or husbands.

Marriage. Women married into the circumstances of their grooms, whether landed or landless. Property owners tended to arrange marriages for their sons and daughters so that the young couple could have a farm of their own. Marriage was neolocal insofar as newlyweds usually set up housekeeping on their own. A patrilocal quality was imparted, however, by the tendency to settle in the community of the groom's family or even to take over the farm of the groom's parents. Divorce was difficult to obtain legally and was strongly censured by village opinion and church morality. Adultery in the village was regarded as highly reprehensible. Unmarried mothers were ostracized. A woman encountered no difficulty, However, if a pregnancy occurred before marriage but in betrothal, especially when a gold ring had been given to the young woman. Many couples hitherto only casually joined saved the situation when a pregnancy occurred by announcing that they were engaged. Premarital sexual activity was, in fact, common, and young men in many villages were permitted to sleep over in the bed of a young woman in the custom called night courting. Village customs thus set the stage for the Sexual freedom and independence of both women and men that is characteristic of Denmark today.

Family. Traditionally, the Danes practiced monogamy. They lived in nuclear families that became stem families when old parents were cared for by an inheriting son. Today, many children are born to parents united in consensual unions. Single-parent families are common. One-fourth of all marriages terminate in divorce. The stem family has become obsolete as retired parents are provided with good care by the welfare system.

Inheritance. Primogeniture was formerly the rule. Younger sons acquired farms by purchase or partial inheritance, worked as landless laborers residing in small cottages, or migrated to town to find work or enter a trade. Beginning in the nineteenth century, many of these younger sons and daughters migrated to the United States, particularly to Michigan and Wisconsin. Inheritance today no longer discriminates consistently on the basis of birth order and gender.

Socialization. The Danes characteristically welcomed the birth of both boys and girls. In traditional village life, Children's play was permitted, but it was unsupervised and unsupported. Children created their own toys. Even in the nineteenth century, most boys and girls went to school enough to become literate. From earliest childhood, however, they were expected to contribute to the work of the family by tending lifestock such as flocks of fowl, carrying water, and helping adults at their work. Consistent with an ethic of Village communalismthough the principle is long extinct in its historical formchildren today still are taught to control and suppress aggression. The censorship of movies in recent decades did not permit the showing of violence but made no objection to films showing sexually explicit scenes as long as nobody was maimed or killed. The Danish child is encouraged to be dependent on his or her mother more than is true for an American child. The principal form of discipline is guilt. The mother lets the child know how hurt she is and how bad she feels because of his or her behavior. Adult Danes thus show a psychiatric vulnerability to any loss of dependency through death, separation, or divorce. They also tend to be obedient citizens.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Class divisions are muted now in a country with a strong egalitarian ethic. Ethnic minorities have changed the character of the nation somewhat in recent decades. Early in the century, Polish migrant workers settled in some areas of the nation, and since World War II foreign workers from as far away as southern Europe and the Middle East have become permanent residents. Contemporary Families tend to isolate themselves from one another. Attitudes surviving from an older communalism and from socialization practices result, however, in acquiescence to democratic forms of governing at every level. They also persist in the widespread activities of voluntary associations, which stem from the mutual-assistance societies and the cooperative movement of the late nineteenth century. The societies were forerunners of social insurance.

Political Organization. Denmark became a constitutional monarchy in 1848. Universal suffrage is practiced. Now ruled by a unicameral legislature, the government is headed by a prime minister. Recently a bourgeois coalition has formed the government. Previously, leadership was most often in the hands of the Social Democrats.

Social Control. The Danes have some continental (Napoleonic) aspects in their legal systemfor example, judges who are career civil servants and the use of lay judges. They also include some common-law (English) aspects, such as criminal jury trials. On the whole, they are closer to common law, because they mainly follow an accusatorial rather than an inquisitorial system. The courts are strong and untainted, backed by a humane penal system and police who do not carry guns.

Conflict. Nonviolence is the essence of the Danish polity, reflecting continuities with a history of communalism. At all levels, governmental and nongovernmental, disputes are resolved through the highly developed art of compromise. The Danes pioneered in the global expansion of the Swedish institution of the ombudsman. Appointed by parliament, the ombudsman is empowered to investigate governmental activity but may not compel the implementation of his recommendations other than through reasoned persuasion or publicity.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. The village church with its state salaried priest united each community for the Sunday church service. The confirmation ritual was a high point in the life of each boy and girl, serving as a rite of passage into adult status. In the twentieth century the Danes became increasingly secularized. Although confirmation is still Important, state-supported churches today are usually almost empty for Sunday services.

Arts. The fine arts and classical music receive state support and are highly appreciated in educated circles. The Danes are best known for their success in modern design. At the same time, they preserve an affection for folk songs and folk culture in a society that values its peasant heritage. The nation maintains an unusually fine system of folk museums, including parks containing authentic, renovated buildings salvaged from premodern times.

Medicine. In the old days, villagers tended to circumvent medical doctors by going directly to apothecaries for diagnosis and treatment. They also had recourse to village healers (known as clever or wise men and women or as sorcerers). Much that healers did was based upon standard medical practice of the time, including herbs, cupping, and bleeding, but they also utilized amulets and other magical practices. Bone-setters and midwives were also part of the historic health-care scene. Only midwives survive at present in a country that supports state-of-the-art medical facilities and personnel.

Death and Afterlife. Traditional Danish beliefs paralleled those of other north European Protestant peoples. They feared hell and strived to be worthy of heavensome with anguish, but many with little obvious concern.


Anderson, Barbara G. (1990). First Fieldwork: The Misadventures of an Anthropologist. Prospect Heights, Ill.: Waveland Press.

Anderson, Robert T. (1975). Denmark: Success of a Developing Nation. Cambridge, Mass.: Schenkman.

Anderson, Robert T., and Barbara G. Anderson (1964). The Vanishing Village: A Danish Maritime Community. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Anderson, Stanley V. (1967). The Nordic Council: A Study of Scandinavian Regionalism. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Hansen, Judith Friedman (1980). We Are a Little Land: Cultural Assumptions in Danish Everyday Life. New York: Arno Press.


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POPULATION: 5 million

LANGUAGE: Danish; English; German

RELIGION: Christianity (Evangelical Lutheran Church; small numbers of Roman Catholics); Judaism


Danes live in Denmark, a country that is part of Scandinavia (the region that also includes Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Sweden). Denmark has one of the world's highest standards of living. Danes pay high taxes, but the government uses the money to provide many social benefits such as free health care. The country's principal port, the capital city of Copenhagen, is a leading center of international trade. No one in Denmark lives farther than 32 miles (52 kilometers) from the sea. As a result, Danes have been sailors and merchants since about ad 800. Denmark is a constitutional monarchy, a form of government where a king or queen rules according to a written constitution. Queen Margrethe II (1940) took the throne in 1972 and continued to rule as of 1998.


Situated between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, Denmark consists of the peninsula of Jutland and over 400 nearby islands, of which about 100 are inhabited. Denmark also governs Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Denmark's capital city, Copenhagen, is located on the nation's largest island, Zealand (Sjaelland). The Danish landscape is characterized by gently rolling hills and flat plains. The lowest points in the country, on the western coast, are below sea level. Dikes (artificially constructed banks of earth) reclaim the land for agricultural use. The longest river is the Guden, and many small lakes dot the land.

About 85 percent of the 5 million Danes live in cities. Over one-third live in the four largest cities: Copenhagen, Aalborg, Odense, and Arhus. Danes are among the most ethnically homogeneous people in Europe. One out of every thirteen Danes has the last name of Jensen.


Danish, a Germanic language, is the official language of Denmark. The people of Greenland speak Greenlandic, a language that is similar to the one spoken by native Canadian people. Faroe Islanders speak Faroese, a distant relative of Danish. English and German are widely spoken. Regional dialects (variations on the language) can vary greatly, so that people in Copenhagen have difficulty understanding the Jutlanders (southern Danes).

Here are some common words and their Danish pronunciations.

English Danish Pronunciation
one en/et ANE
two to tOE
three tre tRA, with short a
four fire FEE-oh
five fem fEHm
six seks sEHgs
seven syv sOO
eight otte AW-der
nine ni NI, as in bit
ten ti TI, as in bit
English Danish Pronunciation
Sunday Søndag SURN-dah
Monday Mandag MAHNdah
Tuesday Tirsdag TAIRS-dah
Wednesday Onsdag OWNS-dah
Thursday Torsdag TORR-ess-dah
Friday Fredag FREH-dah
Saturday Lørdag LUHR-dah


In Scandinavian legend, the god Thor was said to cause thunder by wielding a hammer in the heavens. Vikings (seafarers or pirates of Scandinavia) wore miniature hammers around their necks in his honor. Beautiful maidens called Valkyries were thought to transport Vikings killed in battle to the court of Odinthe leader of the godsat Valhalla. (Much Viking mythology was later re-popularized in the operas of the nineteenth-century German composer Richard Wagner [181383].)

During a later period of Danish history, the red and white national flag, the Dannebrog, was said to have descended from heaven on June 15, 1219, turning the tide in the Danes' battle against Estonia at Lindanaes.

According to legend, witches are thought to fly over Denmark on Midsummer's Eve, and on Midsummer's Day (June 24) firecrackers are traditionally set off all over the country to scare them off. The Danes traditionally believe that storks bring good fortune. The beech tree is something of a national emblem.

"Virtue Is Its Own Reward" is a bleak cautionary tale and appears in many variations around Scandinavia. The Danish version is especially grim and difficult to rationalize with the modern Danish belief in social egalitarianism and virtue. The tale is as follows:

A man was working in the woods collecting firewood when he came upon a snake wedged in the crevice of a tree. The snake asked the man to set him free, but the man said that to do so would be foolish, "for you are surely to bite me if I do." The snake assured the man that he would not hurt him and, reluctantly, the man set it free. Sure enough, the minute it was free, the snake coiled and prepared to bite the man.

"You see," he said, "I knew that you were evil; that my good deed would be repaid with evil."

But the snake replied that such was the way of the world. "Don't blame me; good deeds are always repaid with evil."

The man argued, saying that good deeds were not always repaid with evil. "Virtue," the man said, "brings virtue."

The snake scoffed at the man's simplicity and suggested they get another opinion. They wandered out into a meadow where they came upon an old horse, and the snake asked him if good deeds were well rewarded in the real world or not. The horse said that good deeds are not rewarded in this world and told a sad tale of serving his master well and dutifully for many years, only to be put out to pasture when he was no longer healthy. "No," the old horse said, "good deeds are never well rewarded."

The snake thanked the horse again and prepared to bite the man, but the man said they should ask somebody else. They came upon a fox and, again, the snake asked whether good deeds were rewarded with good or evil. The man whispered to the fox that if he said they were rewarded with good he would bring him two geese, but before he could even answer, the fox pounced on the snake, biting into its neck. Before dying, the snake looked up at the man and said, "You see, I was right. I spared your life and for that good deed I am killed." And the fox ate the snake.

The man then told the fox to come home with him and he would give him the two geese he promised. The fox refused, however, saying that the man would repay his good deed by setting his dogs on him. The man protested, but the fox would not believe him, so the man went home to his wife and told her the story. He said she should pack two geese into a sack for him to take to the fox. Instead, she put two fierce terriers into the sack. When the man got back to the woods, he told the fox, "You see, your good deed is being repaid with good." But when the fox opened the sack, the terriers leapt at his throat, killing the fox.

"You see," he said before he died. "The snake was right: good deeds are rewarded with bad."


Denmark was the first Nordic country to adopt Christianity as its official religion under King Harald Bluetooth (c.910c.985) in the tenth century. Over 90 percent of modern Danes belong to the state-sponsored Evangelical Lutheran Church, although only 5 percent regularly attend services. Although the Church is supported by the state, Danes have the freedom to practice any religion and larger cities have Catholic churches, synagogues, and mosques.


Aside from the standard holidays of the Christian calendar, the Danes celebrate Store Bededag (Prayer Day) on the fourth Friday after Easter, Liberation Day (May 5), Ascension Thursday (the fortieth day after Easter), Constitution Day (June 5), and Whitmonday (the seventh Monday after Easter). Many children watch the parade of the royal guard at Amalienborg Square in Copenhagen on Queen Margrethe's birthday (April 16), a school holiday.

A holiday for Danish childrencomparable to Halloween in the United Statesis the Monday before Shrove Tuesday. On this day, children dress up in traditional costumes and visit their neighbors asking for money to buy candy.

The Danes also celebrate American Independence Day (July 4) in honor of Americans of Danish descent. Thousands attend homecoming festivities including concerts, rallies, and lectures.


Denmark, like most of its European neighbors, is a modern, industrialized country. Many of the rites of passage that young people undergo are connected with their progress through the education system. Additionally, Christian religious rituals such as baptism, confirmation, and marriage are important to those who observe them.

The Danes place special emphasis on birthdays, which are celebrated in youth with parties much like those of the United States. After their eighteenth birthday, Danish men become eligible to serve in the army. A lottery is held to select recruits for the armed forces from among those eligible.


Danish manners are more formal than those in the United States. There is a great deal of polite handshaking, and men raise their hats as a gesture of respect. The word tak ("thank you") is used often and can also mean "please" or "I beg your pardon."

Two or more Danes drinking together offer the courteous toast of "Skol." Professional titles such as "Doctor" or "Master" are commonly used in addressing people. Danes tend to be organized and punctual. To those they don't know well, Danes may appear to be cool or standoffish.

English Danish Pronunciation Pronunciation
hello goddag go-DAH
goodbye farvel FAH-vel
yes ja ya
no nej neye
thank you tak tag
you're welcome selv tak SEL tag
take it easy! bare rolig BAH-reh ROH-lig


With its extensive system of social services, Denmark has one of the world's highest standards of living. Most Danes own their own houses or apartments. Danish homes are made of brick and wood or of stucco. Homes typically have light furniture and few wall hangings. The spare, graceful Danish furniture popular throughout the world is made of beautifully finished wood and is characterized by its gently curving lines.

Complete medical care is provided free of charge to all Danish citizens. There is one physician for every three hundred people, one of the best ratios in the world. Life expectancy averages seventy-five years. The major causes of death are heart disease and cancer.


Danes' social lives tend to focus largely on the nuclear family, although to a somewhat lesser degree than those of their Scandinavian neighbors. Most couples live together before marriage, a practice that is generally accepted. In fact, many Danish marriages are "paperless" common-law unions with no formal ceremony. At least half of all Danish marriages end in divorce, and single-parent families are common. On average, men marry at about age thirty-three and women at about thirty. Since 1988 homosexual couples have been entitled to the same rights as married heterosexual couples.

The Danish monarchy may be inherited by either a woman or a man. The Danish Women Citizen's Society, created in 1871, works to further women's rights. Danish women gained the right to vote in 1915. Housewives have their own association, whose activities parallel those of professional groups.


The Danes wear modern Western-style clothing, dressing formally for business and casually for less formal activities. Among young people, casual dress typically includes leather jackets, T-shirts, and jeans.

The traditional costume, worn most often by folk dancers, consists of (for women) blouses and jackets decorated with gold and silver stitching, layered petticoats, scarves, and bonnets. Men's costumes consist of sweaters, jackets, and knickers (pants that come to just below the knee) worn with high, white woolen socks.


Danish food includes a wide variety of fish, meat, bread, cheese, and crispbreads. The Danes usually eat four meals a day: a breakfast of cereal, cheese, or eggs; lunch; a hot dinner that includes fish or meat; and a late supper. Lunch may include open-faced sandwiches called smørrebrød (smerbrerth), consisting of thin slices of bread with toppings such as smoked salmon or eel, tongue, ham, shrimp, caviar, eggs, or cheese. A popular spread for the smørrebrød is apple-onion lard, a distinctly Danish concoction.

Danes consume 40 gallons (150 liters) of beer per person each year, the highest rate in Scandinavia. Aquavit (snaps), a spiced liqueur flavored with caraway seeds, is a popular after-dinner drink. The Danish place great emphasis on arranging their food so it is visually attractive as well as tasty. The popular smørrebrød may be garnished with twists of cucumber, tomato, dill weed, beets, citrus fruit, or onion rings.


Apple-Onion Lard


  • 1 pound lard
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced or chopped
  • 2 apples, thinly sliced or chopped
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper


  1. Combine ingredients in a saucepan.
  2. Over low heat, melt lard with onions, apples, and spices.
  3. Simmer for about 30 minutes.
  4. Cool, stirring often, and pour into stoneware container. Refrigerate.

Serve as a spread on thin-sliced pumpernickel or white bread.

The ritual of eating is also very important. There is a Danish saying that meals are for being with family as much as for eating. This is especially true for the late supper, often the only meal the entire family will share.


Free primary, secondary, and for most students, postsecondary education are funded by high taxes. Most children attend folkeskole (FOLK-es-sko-lah), the government-funded schools system, from pre-school to the ninth grade. Danish schools are unique, because one teacher teaches the same group of students for all nine years of their schooling.

After the ninth grade, students take an exam to qualify them for gymnasium (a school that prepares students for university) or for technical training school. Denmark has five major universities. The oldest and largest is the University of Copenhagen, founded in 1479. Others include Aarhus University and Odense University.


The Royal Danish Ballet was founded in 1829. The music compositions of Carl Nielsen, Denmark's most-renowned composer, are performed throughout the world.

Among Danish writers, the most famous is Hans Christian Andersen (180575), the author of such beloved fairy tales as "The Ugly Duckling," "The Emperor's New Clothes," and "The Red Shoes." In the twentieth century, Karen Dinesen (Baroness Blixen-Finecke), who wrote under the pen name of Isak Dinesen (18851962), gained renown for her memoir, Out of Africa. Robert Redford (1932) and Meryl Streep (1949) starred in the film version of her story. Two Danish movies have won Academy Awards for Best Foreign Picture: Babette's Feast (1988), and Pelle the Conqueror (1989).

Danes are renowned for their experimental architecture. Jorn Utzon (1918), a Danish architect, designed the Sydney (Australia) Opera House.


Most Danes work in businesses with fewer than 100 employees. Altogether, about 70 percent of the labor force is employed in the service sector, 27 percent in industry, and only 4 percent in agriculture, forestry, and fishing. About 85 percent of the Danish labor force belong to labor unions.

The work week in Denmark averages forty-four hours with five weeks of paid vacation annually. Unemployment benefits equal up to 90 percent of a worker's weekly pay. Parents (both mother and father) are eligible for fourteen weeks of paid maternity leave following the birth of a child. A law requiring equal pay for men and women has been in effect since 1973. Workers must be at least sixteen years old.


An estimated 300,000 Danes play soccer (fodball). Children play it at school, after school, and on weekends and holidays. Volunteer-run clubs throughout the country are dedicated to turning young players into pros. At least one out of every four Danes belongs to a sports club of some kind.

The proximity of the sea has bred an interest in water sports, including sailing, rowing, and swimming. Other popular activities include rugby, tennis, handball, archery, fencing, cycling, skiing, and rifle shooting. Every year, Athletics Awards sponsored by Queen Margrethe II are presented to men and women who have passed qualifying tests based on age.


The Danish people enjoy spending leisure time with their families, whether they are attending a sporting event or observing a holiday. The most popular spectator sport is soccer (fodball), with the main national rival being Sweden. Danes often enjoy athletic activities such as jogging, cycling, or long-distance running purely for exercise rather than competition. Bridge (a card game) and chess are also popular leisure-time pursuits. Large numbers of bridge fans attend national tournaments featuring the top players.

The Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, which opened in 1834, is a popular cross between a city park and an amusement park. Visitors can ride rides, enjoy a concert or fireworks display, or view the gardens and fountains. Legoland Amusement Park in Billund is open from May through September. Visitors can ride rides and view the creations built on a 1:20 scale from over 40 million Lego bricks.


Folk dancing is popular in Denmark, with about 15,000 men and women participating on a regular basis. The Danish Country Dancing Society, one of the best-known folk dance troupes, has been in existence since 1901. Crafts include work in silver, glass, porcelain, and pewter, as well as textiles. Modern Danish furniture was pioneered in the 1930s. Denmark has an outstanding system of folk museums, including rural and urban buildings that are centuries old and which have been moved to park settings.


The challenges facing Denmark include unemployment and high prices for goods. In the late 1990s, workers and government were cooperating in an effort to control prices by limiting wage increases.


Bendure, Glenda. Denmark. Hawthorn, Australia: Lonely Planet, 1996.

Denmark in Pictures. Minneapolis, Minn.: Lerner Publications Co., 1991.

Gall, Timothy, and Susan Gall, eds. Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations. Detroit: UXL, 1996.

Hintz, Martin. Denmark. Enchantment of the World series. Chicago: Children's Press, 1994.

Pateman, Robert. Denmark. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1995.

Taylor-Wilkie, Doreen. Denmark. Insight Guides. Singapore: APA Press, 1992.


Consulate General of Denmark in New York. [Online] Available, 1998.

Royal Danish Embassy. [Online] Available, 1998.

World Travel Guide. [Online] Available, 1998.

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