Hello fellow international students! The International Extraordinaire swears a tumbleweed just rolled across the screen when we looked at our poor, abandoned blog the other day. Thesis writing has become priority #1 and that is really our only excuse. Anyway, the International Extraordinaire thought since the chilly air and grey skies have surely confirmed summer is over in Denmark, we’d spice things up (pun sadly intended) with a quick look at Denmark’s favorite spice: Pepper (eller på dansk, Peber).
A good friend of ours recently turned 30 last weekend and after biking home from his apartment, we noticed our bicycles had a thick coat of ground cinnamon. “Hmm, well that’s strange,” we thought, “It should be pepper.” Now, you might still think this was strange and understandably so. In the States, turning 30 would mean some quality “over-the-hill” jokes and other such delights to prepare him for his mid-life crisis, in Denmark they take it up a notch.
It begins on the 25th birthday for any unmarried person. Expect to get lots of gifts. Expect that all of them will be, in various forms, cinnamon. Why? The Wiki page tells me it’s because back in the 16th century, there were people who traveled around selling spices, like cinnamon or pepper. They traveled so much that they never got around to marrying and settling down. Hence, they were known as Pebersvend, directly translatable as Pepper Dude, but more fittingly translated to Bachelor. Now, everyone in Danish society who remains unmarried can expect to be called as such. Long story short, Danes are weird and their mischievous humor needs some kind of justification.
By the time you’re 30, assuming that you’ve just recently finished all that cinnamon you were given 5 years ago, and assuming that you still haven’t gotten around to getting legally hitched, you’re in for another surprise: Black pepper. The way it works is that you will receive black pepper in whatever way your loving friends and family see fit. Some will paint an old oil drum black to make it look like a pepper mill (peberkværn) and write various messages like “Haha! You’re old and alone in this world! Happy 30th!” Others will go the extra mile and kidnap you, tie you to a pole, and pour pepper down your pants. Mmmm, simply the thought of the fiery warmth is enough to keep any autumn chill away.
To give you some visual examples of what I’m talking about, I’ve trudged through the murky bogs of the internet to produce the choicest collection of 30th bday Pebersvend celebrations (read: I googled “Pebersvend” and this was what came up). Credit given where credit is due!
Up first: Not only did this Pebersvend’s friends and family tie him up and spray him with water and ground pepper, they then posted the video on Youtube for all to see! Haha, it’s so much fun!
(This thing is actually for sale!)
So there you have it. A taste of tradition done the Danish way. If you are turning 25 or 30 while you’re unmarried in Denmark, I recommend taking a nice trip to somewhere, ANYWHERE, far away for your birthday.
Note: Halfway through my google search, I realized that a lot of images were from the same site. Someone has already attempted a similar mission to encapsulate this Danish tradition, and done it quite well. Not to drive you all off this blog, but it’d be terribly immoral of me to deprive you. Check out some awesome pictures and even awesomer picture captions here!