Tag Archives: Danish

Soren Banjomus

Skillema-dinke-dinke-du, skillema-dinke-du!
Hør på Søren Banjomus, han spiller nemlig nu.
Skillema-dinke-dinke-du, skillema-dinke-du!
Kom og syng og dans med os, det syn’s vi, at I sku’.
Vi glæder os til juleaften, så bli’r træet tændt,
og vi får fine julegaver, ih! hvor er vi spændt.
Skillema-dinke-dinke-du, skillema-dinke-du!
Bar’ det altså snart var nu.

Interviewer: What is being performed?


Informant: A Danish Folksong Soren Banjomus by Jens Sweeney


Interviewer: What is the background information about the performance? Why do you know or like this piece? Where     or who did you learn it from?


Informant: From my mother. It’s a Christmas Carol about singing and dancing in the joy of Christmas.


Interviewer: What country and what region of that country are you from?


Informant: West Jutland


Interviewer: Do you belong to a specific religious or social sub group that tells this story?


Informant: Danish heritage


Interviewer: Where did you first hear the story?


Informant: Christmas time. From my first memory.


Interviewer: What do you think the origins of this story might be?


Informant: It’s a Danish children’s song, sung on Christmas.


Interviewer: What does it mean to you?


Informant: Home, Family, Warmth, Love, Joy


Context of the performance-  conversation with a classmate


      Thoughts about the piece-  If you listen to the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hasJBmVzt-U you may find that you recognize it. I thought it was a preschool nonsense song that I learned as a child from Barney (the purple dinosaur) “Skidamarink a dink a dink, Skidamarink ado, I love you.”  It turns out that the Danish was actually adapted from an American Broadway musical from 1910!

Christmas Eve Dinner (Danish-American)

The informant describes how his Danish family celebrates Christmas each year in San Francisco.  The informant details the Christmas Eve dinner and a game involving rice pudding and an almond at the end of the meal.  The informant explains that he learned this tradition from his Danish family and has partaken in the tradition every since he was a little kid.  The tradition of the dinner has sentimental value for him because he has done it for so long with his family.

The informant explains that his Danish-American family celebrates Christmas Eve in a distinct fashion.  The family always has a roasted duck for dinner and after eating the duck the family always eats a bowl of rice pudding, but plays a game along with the eating of the pudding.  The family places an almond into a large bowl of pudding and the goal of the game is to pass the bowl of pudding around with each participant taking one scoop of pudding until someone finds the almond.  The participant who finds the almond typically wins a prize.  Traditionally the prize was marzipan, but the informant explains they do not eat that anymore because it does not taste good.  The trick of the game is to do your best to keep it a secret if you have found the almond because you want to make your other family members continue to eat the pudding without them knowing the game is actually over.  The informant explains that he actually added a variation to the game by putting in two almonds into the pudding without letting the others know.

I find the Danish celebration interesting as it varies largely from the celebration in the United States.  There are apparent Danish adaptations to the celebration of Christmas as seen with the roasted duck meal and the rice pudding game with the almond.  I have never heard of either of these practices in traditional U.S. Christmas celebrations.  The games give possible deeper insight into the traditional food eaten within the Danish past and how they play games.

Danish-American Christmas Stockings

The informant grew up in Northern California and has two parents who were born in Denmark.  The informant explains that his Danish parents continues many traditions from Denmark today. The informant details his family’s Danish style stockings used for Christmas at his home in San Francisco.  The informant explains that he learned this tradition from his Danish parents and remembers partaking in it since he was a little kid.  The tradition has sentimental value as it has been something he has done with his family for many years.

The informant explains that for his Danish-American family instead of hanging stockings over the fireplace, similar to most American families, his family members place their shoes outside and wait for Santa to fill their shoes with presents and goodies.  The informant believes that this Danish tradition originated because back a long time ago Danish people wore wooden clogs and somehow the tradition began where the clogs served as stockings.

I find the informant’s story of the Danish-American traditions rather intriguing as you see his family adapting part of the traditions of Christmas.  Placing the toys and gifts into shoes today and supposedly wooden clogs in the past in Denmark gives some insight into the type of clothing and attire worn in Denmark earlier in history.  This information can be quite helpful when analyzing the culture of that country.  It is also cool to know that his parents have passed that tradition on to their children and it will be interesting to see if the informant (the child) and his brother decide to continue those traditions.

“Danish Birthday Song”

            The informant’s maternal ancestry hails from Denmark, and although she has never lived in Denmark she has visited the country several times for extended periods and has maintained a strong Danish cultural presence in her lifestyle, especially around the holidays. For example, she strings up miniature Danish flags around her Christmas tree each year and makes æbleskiver, traditional Danish pancakes in the shape of little round balls, Christmas morning. Furthermore, one of her most treasured family heirlooms is a set of silverware engraved with the family crest as well as an ornate “N” for Nielsen, her mother’s maiden name, and a recognizably Danish one at that. She also sings a Danish song when celebrating family birthdays, and she shared the lyrics as well as the role the song has played in her own life. As a child, she remembered learning the song as a birthday song, but as she grew older she learned the song’s first line comes from a Danish drinking song, perhaps one that was sung in celebration. As the informant sang the song, she was sitting in her dining room table drinking coffee out of a china tea set her mother brought from Denmark.


            The first part “han skal leve”. . .I’m not positive about what it means but I believe it’s loosely translated as “may he live” or “may he live well.” The “hurra!” is the Danish way to say “hooray!” and I never understood what the ” højt” was for. I just know everyone said “højt quite loudly (she laughs heartily).
When we are celebrating a female’s birthday, the “bravo” verse is changed to “brava” and we say “bravissima” instead of “bravissimo.”

 Han skal leve, han skal leve, han skal leve, højt hurra!
Bravo, bravo, bravo bravissimo
Bravo, bravo, bravissimo
Bravo bravissimo, bravo bravissimo
Bravo, bravo, bravissimo.


            The informant’s close ties with her Danish roots are quite evident; Danish traditions and practices have seeped into several different aspects of her life. The confusion as to whether the song was originally sung in birthday celebration or while drinking seems typical for a family practice that has been passed down through generations―it can become increasingly difficult to discern when and why a song was first introduced into the family. In all likelihood, the song served both purposes. After all, it is quite common to pair drinking with a birthday party or celebration, and it was perhaps only because of her young age that she first associated the song exclusively with birthdays.

            The “may he live well” translation bestows good fortune or good health, though perhaps both―the interpretation of “well” is ambiguous―on the celebrating individual, which is not atypical for birthday celebrations across most cultures. However, the informant’s Danish family allows the party guests to seize an opportunity for good luck as well. She and her family prepare a layered Danish cake, inside which are hidden dimes, and anyone who bites or finds a dime while eating their cake is granted good luck for the week. This practice shifts focus from solely the celebrating individual to the party-goers as well; it is a more collectively engaging and participatory experience.