Valentine’s Day in Denmark

Category: Culture

Continuing our theme of bringing you Valentine’s Day customs from various countries, in this post we take a look at another interesting ritual.

While food and flowers are some of the more traditional means of recognizing Valentine’s Day in many countries, Denmark also claims a unique tradition of admirers sending gaekkebrev (loosely translated as “joke letters”) to their admired. Gaekkebrev, pictured above, are generally original poems or rhymes, written on paper and then carefully decorated by cutting designs in them with scissors. Spring flowers, known as snowdrops, are traditionally included with the notes.

What brings the “joke” to the gaekkebrev is the signature — or lack thereof — of the sender. Custom dictates that it is indicated in dots, one for each letter in the person’s name. If the recipient guesses the identity of the note-giver, they receive an Easter egg, mostly likely of the confectionary variety, on Easter Sunday. If not, one egg is owed to the sender (whose identity, we assume, is made clear).

According to one source, the gaekkebrev tradition dates back from the 18th century. The snowdrop flower itself also plays into the joke, being a portent of a not-quite-arrived Spring season. Interestingly, the familiar trappings of hearts and chocolate appeared in Denmark only in the 1990s, and are now commonplace, while gaekkebrev have become lesser-known.

Needless to say, we hope this charming tradition makes a comeback! If you know of any other interesting Valentine’s Day-related traditions, let us know below.