July 3, 2014
Tomorrow America will celebrate the 238th anniversary of her independence from Great Britain and the historical writing of the Declaration of Independence. Although this magnificent fete may be a bit overshadowed by the boom of fireworks and the many festivals, barbeques, parades and gatherings that will be taking place, there is no denying that the 4th of July continues to be one of the most celebrated days of the year!
There will be hundreds and thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of celebrations all across the nation this weekend (if not already). However, did you know that the largest 4th of July celebration held outside of the US actually takes place each year in Denmark, and that they’ve been doing so for over 100 years?
In 1910 a group of Danish-Americans, led by Max Henius (a Dane who emigrated to Chicago in 1881 and was an original member of the committee that submitted plans for The Danish Old People’s Home in 1901), purchased 200 acres of land for 20,000 Kroner (less than $4,000 today) in the Denmark countryside known as Rebild Bakker (“Rebild Hills”). On August 5, 1912 this land was then given to his Majesty King Christian X as a permanent memorial to all Danish Americans with the purpose that it never be cultivated and remain open to the public for all to enjoy. That same year the very first Rebild Festival was celebrated. On the slope north of Rebild, a bust of Max Henius was placed and still stands in his memory.
According to an article on bbc.com from 2012, “Rebild National Park has been holding the largest Fourth of July celebration outside of the United States since 1912. Rebildfesten, a Fourth of July celebration, is by far the most popular holiday that takes place in the national park, commemorating American independence as well as Danish heritage. The food, music and entertainment starts 2 July, but the main event on 4 July includes a 3km parade from the Skørping train station to the park’s Rebild Hills. Following lunch, the celebrations continue with American and Danish speakers and a concert.”
Celebrating Danish-American connections, the annual 4th of July Rebild festival commemorates over 300,000 Danish immigrants that came to the USA during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the strong familial bonds that survive between the USA and Denmark today.
It is evident in all that I continue to find and learn from the contents of The Hope Chest that the connections between Denmark and American have made a significant impact on our nation’s history, Chicago’s history, and the history of The Danish Home of Chicago. Again this year we will be celebrating our independence along with our Danish brethren halfway across the world.
Here is an article from the Danish Times dated June 15, 1934 that the mayor of Chicago sent to the people of Denmark for their Rebild celebration that year.
“To the Citizens Assembled, Independence Day Celebration, Rebild Park, Denmark: I have just learned of the remarkable gathering which is to be held at Rebild Park on July 4, and it is my pleasure and privilege to send you the cordial greetings of the city of Chicago.
As a major metropolitan center of America, Chicago is very happy that the day commemorating the birth of our nation should be celebrated in such a ceremonious manner in Denmark. Since America became a free country, many Danes have come to our country, and have become citizens of the highest character, a large number of them having achieved outstanding leadership in commercial and civic posts–leadership of which our people, regardless of nationality, are justly proud.
On this occasion, I also want to extend to the people of Denmark a cordial invitation to visit our great Century of Progress Exposition. This marvelous World’s Fair, contemplated originally to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of Chicago’s birth, has long since developed into a gorgeous expression and picturization of the social, industrial, commercial, medical, and artistic progress of the entire world.”
Hence, it is your Exposition as much as it is ours, and I sincerely hope that Chicago will have the privilege and opportunity of extending the hand of welcome to many of your citizens this year.
With every assurance of the high esteem which citizens of Chicago bear for the good people of Denmark, I have the honor to remain
Edward J. Kelly, Mayor.”
Have a happy and safe 4th of July and don’t forget to check out the newest Pinterest board from The Danish Home of Chicago, which features delicious 4th of July recipes, fun crafts, printables (and more!), as well as Rebild info and vintage pictures!