June 5th, 2014
“Grundlovsdag” – Danish Constitution Day
Today is a very special day in the eyes of Danes as it marks the 165th anniversary of the first Danish constitution, which was signed by King Frederik VII in 1849 and made Denmark a constitutional monarchy. Rewritten a total of four more times, on 1866, 1915, 1920 and 1953, no Danish constitution has ever been amended. Instead, each time a new constitution was penned it replaced the existing one. The current constitution, written in 1953 and adopted on the same day as the first constitution on June 5, 1849, allowed females to inherit the throne. This provision allowed for current Danish Queen Margrethe II to succeed her father upon his death (you can read more about that here in a previous post).
Danish Constitution Day is celebrated around the country, and the globe as well (take a look at this festival announcement earlier this month in California, and this one taking place in New York this weekend)! This day has been marked historically by political rallies and festivals at popular locations in Denmark, such as Himmelbjerget and Skamlingsbanken in Jutland. The Dannebrog (pronounced [ˈdanəˌbʁoˀ] and translation means “Danish cloth”) is obviously a very important symbol displayed on this day.
I found 2 fascinating articles written in 1899 and 1925, which convey the tone of Danish Constitution day here in Chicago during both of these times in history. One quote that stands out from the article from 1925 was made by Mr. John Schmidt, President of the Danish National Committee, while addressing the crowd at the annual Danish Constitution Day parade in Chicago. He so eloquently said:
“This year we are celebrating our native Constitution Day for the seventeenth time here in Chicago. Those who have participated in this commemoration in Denmark do probably know what significance a celebration of this kind can have. You felt what it meant to be a Dane and you resolved you would contribute to a future of your country equalling its past. We have gathered here to pay a tribute to our homeland and its free enlightened people to whom we are tied in so many ways.
There is a peculiar harmony between the colors of Dannesbrog and the Star Spangled Banner as they wave side by side today. We want to protect whatever good we brought with us from our native country, and we wish to preserve it unmolested for the benefit of our children. Therefore, I wish to extend my welcome to you all. Welcome to all our guests who are here on their way to visit Denmark. When you come home perchance somebody will wonder why you and your children still speak the Danish language. Tell them that we gather by the thousands to celebrate Denmark’s Constitution Day.”
Denmark’s Constitution Day is celebrated with less fanfare in comparison with other countries. It is a day often spent with the family. One main reason for this is that today marks another cause for celebration, as Danes are celebrating Fars Dag (Father’s Day). The 5th of June is a day of double festivity as many people enjoy a day off to spend time with their families and celebrate dear old dad!
What better way to commemorate Danish Father’s Day then to post a picture of 4 of the most famous Danish father’s? Pictured below (L to R) are the 4 Danish kings, taken around the turn of the century. Crown Prince Frederik VIII (King from 1906-12), Christian IX (King from 1863 -1906) holding baby Prince Frederik IX (current Queen Margrethe’s father and King from 1947-72), and the baby’s father Prince Christian X (King from 1912-47) .
Only King Frederik IX would’ve been alive for the inception of Fars Dag, since it was introduced to Denmark from the USA in the 1930’s. Originally the American date in June was used, but in 1949 the Nordic countries decided to move it to the second Sunday in November. It is said that this was partly to place it half a year away from Mother’s Day but also it was chosen to increase sales in an otherwise quiet trading period before Christmas. The only country that didn’t fall in line was Denmark. In the US it is noted that Father’s Day celebrations happened as early as 1908 in West Virginia, Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd (who coincidentally studied at The Art Institute of Chicago) is credited with establishing the first official Father’s Day in America.
Here is a picture of Queen Margrethe and her sisters as young girls, along with their father King Frederik IX (the little baby in the picture above!). Due to the rewritten constitution on 1953, signed when she was just 13, King Frederik IX’s eldest daughter was able to succeed her father to the throne when he passed away in 1972.
This weekend The Danish Home will be having a very special Father’s Day barbeque on the patio, and our American Father’s Day will be celebrated on June 15th. I can’t wait to write more about this wonderful occasion next week!
Glad Grundlovsdag and Fars Dag til du!