Children’s birthday party Danish style

Our hall is littered with around 28 pairs of shoes and coats. Just as many schoolbags are piled up in our bryggers. Our second youngest daughter is celebrating her 8th birthday today.

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Hosting a children’s birthday party in Denmark means inviting all your classmates. Everyone is included: inklusion is the magic word. If your house is too small for such an invasion, you may consider inviting either the girls or the boys of the class (depending on the gender of your own child obviously). Choosing to invite only the ones you get along with best, thus excluding the rest of your classmates, is unusual and inappropriate and goes against the Danish principle of fællesskab.

Don’t get me wrong; I am very much in favour of the principle of fællesskab. However, coming from a country where children are allowed to invite just as many friends as the age they’re turning (where usually parents draw the line at 7 or 8 or so), it took me a while to get used to the idea that here in Denmark we were supposed to invite the WHOLE class. After all, feeding 28 hungry mouths means baking over 60 pancakes!

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I certainly don’t want our children to feel that they’re different from their classmates, so whenever we’re hosting a children’s party I try to do things as they should be done. That means you will see Danish flags waving in the wind along the path leading to our front door. The table will be officially laid and in the middle there’s a Danish flag again. As our dinner table doesn’t quite fit 28 children, two tablecloths are rolled out on the floor to allow everyone to sit down. The cake naturally is a typical Danish lagkage.

An aspect of the Danish-style children’s birthday party I had less trouble adjusting to is the forældrekaffe at the end of the party. In fact, now that some of our children are getting older, the parties they are invited to are being held at night and often end with a forældreøl. A part from the fact that these get-togethers are always very hyggelig, they also help to increase the feeling of fællesskab amongst the parents. And when a good example is set, it is often followed.

Now that I have gotten used to the Danish style children’s birthday party, I like it more and more. It comes with a lot of traditions and traditions are always good to have when you’re growing up! There’s one thing though that is still very Dutch when we are hosting a children’s birthday party today: the birthday song. No matter how nice the Danish songs are (I just love the one where the birthday child gets to pre-pick some instruments that are “played” by the other children while singing the song), the Dutch Lang zal ze leven is too much intertwined with the traditions I know from my youth. So my husband and I will definitely be singing our traditional birthday song to our birthday girl today, even if this means that all 28 classmates will be staring at us in astonishment. Traditions are meant to be passed on, so that’s what we do, meanwhile adopting some new ones along the road!

Nicole

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