Danes Bring Light to the Holiday Season
By Nina York
Holidays are important in just about any culture, and reflect a great deal about the cultural entity that enjoys them. In our Western civilization, where Christianity plays a major role, the celebration of Christmas is the major religious observance of the year, although recent times have brought considerable commercialism into the picture.
Despite almost 100 years of American rule, our islands still carry an imprint of the Danish culture of former times, and the religious celebrations are no exception. There is an irony in that the religious fervor that was part of the Lutheran mission here in former times no longer appears to be part of the Danish culture today. Nonetheless, Danish visitors to the islands today find inspiration and joy in participating in the church services here, with their music and warmth, whether at Lutheran churches related to their own Danish State Church denomination or at more gospel-oriented congregations here. Many Danish visitors state that if Danish churches presented the kind of services offered here, they would be filled to capacity.
While it is hard to imagine a tropical Christmas when you reside in chilly, dark Denmark at this time of year, the tradition of bringing light to this festival seems universal.
In Denmark, candles by the thousands bring light to the dark Nordic night. We have inherited part thereof, but another legacy from Denmark is the celebration as an official holiday of Christmas Second Day, just as we have also inherited the holidays of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Second Day. Presumably the added holidays were a cherished custom, then and now, and added to the relatively large number of official holidays enjoyed locally. Repeated attempts to eliminate some of these holidays as paid government holidays have met with considerable resistance.
Food is a major part of any Christmas celebration, but because of the great climate difference, as well as the distance food had to be carried, not many Danish foods gained a foothold here during the Danish period of 1733 to 1917. Danish recipes were sometimes adapted to whatever local ingredients were on hand. Because of our population having its origin from so many different nations, our traditional island cuisine has equally international roots, with many favorites also found in other Caribbean locations. Be sure to sample them at indigenous restaurants and at the holiday food fairs to get the true flavor of this island.