When I visit a foreign country, I’m always pleasantly surprised when I find out that I will be there to take part in an exciting national event. I was lucky enough to be in Copenhagen to experience two such important cultural events celebrated in Denmark. The first was Culture Night (Kulturnatten), which took place on October 11th. The second was J-Day (J-Dag), which takes place on the first Friday of November, this year falling on November 1st.
Culture Night is an evening on which cultural institutions throughout Copenhagen open their doors to the public, offering not only free access, but in many cases some kind of special exhibit or behind-the-scenes tour. The institutions involved include museums, libraries, educational establishments, theaters, musical venues, churches, and more. With over 650 organizations participating, it is almost guaranteed that Culture Night will have something of interest for people of all backgrounds, interests, and age groups. In fact, there are many events organized specifically for kids, making Culture Night a popular event for entire families to attend.
Since there were so many things to see and do on Culture Night, it was impossible for me to experience all of it. However, I was very impressed and delighted with the visits that I made. My first stop was to the famous Copenhagen icon The Round Tower (Rundetårn). The Round Tower is a 17th-century tower that was originally built as an astronomical observatory. Not only can visitors climb to the top of the tower for a beautiful view of Copenhagen, but they can also peruse the beautiful Trinitatus Church, attached to the tower. When I reached the tower, the outside was covered with lights flashing in patterns to make images on the side of the building. When I first walked inside, I was met by the beautiful sounds of a choir singing in the church. The best part, though, came at the end of the trek to the top of the tower (and the long line in which I had to wait). At the top, the old telescope was available to use, even though it is normally closed to the public. It provided a beautiful view of Copenhagen all lit up at night.
Another memorable stop that I made during Culture Night was to Copenhagen City Hall (Rådhuset). City Hall is a massive, beautiful building that I pass every day on my bike to class, but have never taken the time to admire up close, or step foot inside. Culture Night finally gave me the opportunity and motivation to check it out. In honor of the special night, City Hall was filled with Copenhagen’s top politicians. It was interesting to wander around to different tables, trying to figure out the Danish party system and understand the platform of each politician. I hope that wandering around gave me enough knowledge to be able to follow the upcoming elections in Copenhagen!
Closely following Culture Night, J-Day is another night on which all of the Danes flock to Copenhagen in celebration. Officially, J-Day is the annual launch of the Tuborg Christmas Brew in Denmark, but unofficially it marks the start of the Christmas season. At 8:59 PM on J-Day, Carlsberg employees drive around to bars and cafés singing a traditional Tuborg Christmas Brew song and handing out free beer to the guests. These “Tuborg Elves” are dressed up like blue Santas, and their appearance is cause for much joy and singing. The J-Day event in Denmark was established in 1990 as a small tradition, but it has expanded over the years and is now one of the biggest events in Copenhagen. Although Tuborg Christmas Brew is a seasonal beer and is only on the market for ten weeks each year, it is still Denmark’s fourth best-selling beer.
J-Day made me realize that the Christmas season truly does begin in Denmark on November 1st. Not only was the night of J-Day festive–along with Tuborg’s elves there were bars creating fake snow and playing non-stop Christmas music–but the following day, holiday items had popped up in every store in the city. Now, a week later, I cannot walk down the street in Copenhagen without seeing a shop window filled with reindeer ornaments, angel candles, and every other holiday trinket imaginable. It has definitely gotten me in the Christmas spirit–maybe a little bit early for American standards!
Culture Night and J-Day are just two of the wonderful traditions that the people of Denmark celebrate in Copenhagen, and I am very lucky that I was able to be a part of them. Seeing people so excited about the holidays helped me see the true Danish spirit!