How will Danish New Year’s Eve be different – and the same – in 2021?

Fireworks are set off over Copenhagen on December 31st 2020.
Fireworks are set off over Copenhagen on December 31st 2020. Photo: Tim Kildeborg Jensen/Ritzau Scanpix
People across Denmark will participate in many of the country’s much-loved New Year’s traditions in 2021, though Covid-19 means things will be a little different to pre-pandemic times.

New Year’s Eve is a big deal in Denmark, with several popular traditions and customs repeated by Danes year in, year out.

A big part of the occasion involves gathering with friends to eat a meticulously-prepared three course meal and follow time-honoured – and sometimes rather bizarre – traditions, before drinking and partying into the night.

In 2020, a Covid-19 lockdown left New Year’s Eve bereft of much of its customary party feel.

There are fewer restrictions this year but with Covid-19 infection numbers high, December 31st 2021 will probably be somewhere between the stripped-down 2020 version and the full-on parties of old.

What will be different?

Denmark does not currently have any restrictions on public assembly in place, but has issued recommendations in relation to New Year’s Eve parties.

The director of the Danish Health Authority, Søren Brostrøm, asked the public earlier in December to “avoid big celebrations on New Year’s Eve”.

“If many of you are already thinking about New Year’s Eve, I’d clearly say you should not make plans for huge celebrations,” he said.

“We are asking you to stick to seeing as few people as possible,” the senior health official added.

Nightlife and alcohol sales are subject to restrictions under the Covid-19 rules currently in place.

Sales of alcohol at bars, restaurants and other licensed establishments are banned after 10pm, while establishments must close by 11pm.

General sales of alcohol are currently banned between 10pm and 5am.

What will be the same?

Some of the most-loved Danish New Year’s Eve traditions can go ahead as usual, not least because many take place in the comfort of homes and in front of TV sets. 

The 90th Birthday

Also known as Dinner for One, this ancient 11-minute black-and-white comedy sketch is shown year after year in Danish homes as the old year ticks to a close.

Virtually unknown in the rest of the world, the British-made skit from 1963 is loved in Germany and Scandinavia – not least in Denmark and Sweden.

Don’t forget to join in with the catchphrases: “The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?”

“The same procedure as every year, James!”

The Queen’s speech

Queen Margrethe addresses the nation every year at 6pm on December 31st, just as New Year festivities are getting into full swing.

The monarch’s annual message often touches on ethical and cultural topics, as well as the need for solidarity in society. The Queen also customarily takes time to thank Danish servicemen based abroad.

When Her Majesty signs off with her famous “God save Denmark” (Gud bevare Danmark) line, it will be time for dinner. 

Jump into the New Year

When the big moment comes, many people will get up on a chair so that they can literally jump into the new year.

Given the volume of schnapps likely to have been consumed by this point, ankles and coffee tables alike can be put at considerable risk by this custom — but that doesn’t make it any less fun.

Fireworks

As the evening progresses, a steady flow of fireworks are set off by impatient souls who can’t wait for the chimes of midnight. And we’re not talking about professional firework shows here, but rather the private arsenal of Danes who spend the evening firing off increasingly ear-splitting rockets.

At midnight, this pyrotechnic show is taken up more than just a notch – the thunderous sound of firecrackers keeps the skies alive well into the early morning hours. It’s a custom not without some opposition.


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