Danes Blow the Old Year Away With a Bang
YOU’VE NEVER SEEN FIREWORKS LIKE THIS BEFORE
Godt Nytår! That’s Danish for Happy New Year! And dang it, Danes celebrate the turning of the calendar like nowhere I’ve ever been. And I’ve seen New Year’s Eve in a few places around the planet. (Sydney you were pretty good too.) But here, in Denmark, it’s difficult to describe. It’s different and delightful and downright LOUD. These normally rule-following, structured and peaceful peeps throw a no-holds-barred kind of colorful chaotic cacophony to welcome the brand new baby new year.
If you’ve been here on December 31st, you know. If you’re Danish, you know. This year we are celebrating our fifth New Year’s Eve in Denmark. And by now, I think we know! Any and all future end of year celebrations will pale in comparison to Copenhagen’s. Come see why and how to usher in the new year like a Dane. This is a little louder than your average hygge. But if fireworks are your thing, I reckon you’ll be more than happy.
Start the Day at Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park
HOLIDAYS SPARKLE AT THIS COPENHAGEN GEM
If you’ve never been to the iconic Tivoli Gardens, there is no better time than New Year’s Eve. Believe it or not, the park isn’t that crowded during the day on the 31st. Lines for rides flow smoothly and with darkness descending around 3:00 pm, there is plenty of time to enjoy the twinkly lights of a holiday season in Copenhagen. The Tivoli Julemarked, or Christmas market, will still be standing and the delicious Danish gløgg still pouring.
Tivoli’s famous Fireworks show runs several nights during the holiday season. Check the website to validate current times, but the New Year’s Eve show usually blasts at 11:00 pm on the last day of the year. Three hours at the park is plenty to explore when the weather is chilly, so plan your Tivoli time accordingly if you want to see the fireworks and prioritize quicker queues. Crowds start piling in the gates between 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm and then the lines get decidedly longer.
RELATED: ALWAYS TIME FOR TIVOLI
Entrance: Humans aged 8+ | 130 DKK, add an unlimited ride bracelet for 240 DKK
Human Children aged 3-7 | 60 DKK
TIP: The best gløgg (a Scandinavian spiced mulled wine) in the park can be found at Gløggkompaniet, across from the Hans Christian Andersen ride and near the entrance to the Dæmon. Splurge and try the VIP version – so tasty. It just might be the “verdens bedste gløgg” as they claim. (The world’s best gløgg.) And don’t miss the traditional flæskesteg sandwich. Or get your hand stamped and enter the new Tivoli Food Hall and warm up with many options for everyone in your group.
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Danish New Year’s Eve Starts at 6:00 PM
DANES GATHER TO WATCH THE QUEEN’S SPEECH
New Year’s Eve is not a public holiday in Denmark, so many Danes still have to work if it falls on a weekday. But most everyone will be off in time to get all gussied up and make it out to their parties. Most Danish gatherings begin by raising a glass and tuning in to reigning Queen Margrethe’s speech every December 31st at 6:00 pm – televised live on local channels. This tradition stems back to the 1880s when the King gave a speech on January 1st as a “toast to the fatherland.”
Every monarch since has continued the tradition. Especially significant was the 1942 speech, during Germany’s occupancy of Denmark during WWII when then King Christian X repeated the entreaty his predecessor set before him “Gud bevare Danmark!” God preserve Denmark. Even if you don’t understand Danish, when in Denmark, do as the Danes do and tune in, even if for a bit. You’ll know it’s time to toast when you hear the Queen refrain,
Gud bevare Danmark!” | God preserve Denmark
– Queen Margrethe II
Dinner With Friends
In Denmark, Christmas is for family, every last extended bit of it, for which Danes designate a full three days. But New Year’s Eve is for friends (and family if you choose). Parties are planned months in advance, tuxes are pressed, pretty dresses procured and funny hats donned. New Year’s in Denmark is a fairly fancy affair. After a toast to the Queen, it is now time for dinner. Traditional dishes of yore would have involved different renditions of cod, but modern Danes have more flexibility for feasting and many restaurants and shops offer take away menus to enjoy in your own home.
RELATED: HOW TO INVITE DANES TO A PARTY
Countdown and Leap Into The New Year
When the clock nears midnight, tv’s across the country tune into Denmark’s version of the Times Square ball drop. But before the bells chime at Copenhagen’s Town Hall, much of Denmark watches a quirky slapstick 1963 black and white film short called “Dinner for One,” or “90-års Fødselsdagen” in Danish. I may have seen more than one reveler with the same gait come the wee minutes of the new year.
Same procedure as last year Miss Sophie?”
“Same procedure as every year James.”
– Dinner for One
Then, when the countdown begins, you must find a place to jump off of, as Danes literally jump into the new year. You may see people climbing on chairs and atop sofas or coffee tables for 3, 2, 1! Jump! Godt Nytår! Happy New Year! Hopefully, they aren’t as toasty as James. *Wink, wink.
Kransekage and Champagne
Raise a glass of champagne. Kiss your closest! Cut the kransekage. If you know Danes, there must be cake. And kransekage is the delicious Danish cake served at New Years. A marzipan based batter is baked into consecutively larger rings and layered in a tower decorated simply with piped white icing and Danish flags, of course. I love the kransekage and am still trying to work a recipe from my friend’s mormor, or grandmother.
Blast Your Fireworks
Now comes the real fun. For me anyway. People spill out onto the streets all over the city and it’s time to light the fireworks. In Denmark, you can see the professional fireworks display at Tivoli, but for me, the real show is on every street out in the city all around you. For weeks leading up to the 31st, it is legal to buy professional grade fireworks from tented purveyors all over town. Shooting them off is only allowed and legal for four days between December 29th to January 1st. But almost anyone and everyone can and will and does during that time. Starting sometimes before the sun dips under the horizon on the 31st, you will see and hear fireworks all over Copenhagen.
The real crazy truly ramps up at around 12:15 am, when all the traditions have been toasted and chairs have been jumped off and Danes in their tuxes and heels and chemistry class safety goggles start lighting up the night. We love to watch the display from The Lakes in the center of the city. It is all kinds of insane and amazing and terrifying and terrific at the same time. There is truly nothing like New Year’s Eve in Copenhagen. I love it. Godt Nytår! Skål! Cheers from here. Come to Copenhagen, she said.
NOTE: Make sure to wear protective glasses when out on New Year’s Eve in Copenhagen. Safety first!
Have you been to Copenhagen for New Year’s Eve? What did you think? I’m for jumping right into a new year and doing it as loudly as possible! Skål!
(Originally posted January 2018, updated December 2019)