January 19, 2017


In Latin, Januarius means month of Janus, after the god of beginnings and transitions.  This first new month of the year was added to the calendar, with 29 days, around 713 BC. King Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome (715-673 BC), divided the year into twelve lunar months. However, around 45 BC Julius Caesar, following the advice of Cleopatra’s court astronomer, gave the calendar the 31 days we know today.


January is both National Mentoring Month and National Hobby Month, amongst others. It being an inspiring time of year, the month of January is the perfect time to both mentor and take time to work on personal hobbies. Additionally, both of these things come in to play when working on New Year’s resolutions.




After all, some of the greatest ideas in the world developed through nurturing a hobby, fostering imagination, cultivating an idea and encouraging the unknown.


Emma Thorsen, Danish immigrant and founder of The Danish Home of Chicago, was one of those inspiring people who had an idea, to help elderly Danes in Chicago, and was steadfast in her objective. 125 years ago, she set her goal in motion.


Danish Home founder Emma Thorsen


With this year being the Danish Home’s Quasquicentennial (125th) celebration, I was inspired to shed some light on some of the greatest contributions Scandinavians have made throughout history. Over the next several weeks, I look forward to sharing them with you to get you inspired as well!




Many of us have no idea how much of our day involves inventions, creations and discoveries made by Scandinavians. Here are a notable few:



This colorful, interlocking, building brick toy-story all started in a little workshop run by Ole Kirk Kristiansen in Billund, Denmark in 1932. LEGO sets have passed on from generation to generation as a classic in the playroom, and across cultures, and reinvented their toy to match the times by creating more intricate pieces and storylines behind their toy series. Sold around the world, many people do not know the origin of the name, which is a play off the Danish words, leg godt, which mean, ‘play well’.



Chicago skyline made from LEGOs


Pure Yeast

The year 1887 brought excitement to beer drinkers of Denmark, when Dr. Emil Christian Hansen discovered a method of creating pure yeast, ending the beer disease that plagued the country years before. This method changed everything for the industry, and the new yeast was given the rightfully moniker, Saccharmoyces Carlsbergensis.





Through the ideas of Erik Wallenberg and his dedicated team, the solution to packaging, storing and distributing liquids such as juice and dairy items was developed in 1951, substantially facilitating distribution and storage globally. It has since spread to fridges all over the world.




Way back when, it’s said that the Ancient Greeks and Romans were among the first to play a version of what we call handball today. It was later that the modern game was invented, which many historians attribute to the effort of the Danes, Germans, AND the Swedes. However, historians suggest that Danish athlete, Holger Nielsen, played a big role in formalizing the rules and structure of the game.




‘Copenhagenization’ (say that three times fast!)

Yes, it is a thing! Copenhagen’s bike lanes swarm with cyclists who use their two wheels as a daily form of transport from day and night, rain or shine. The city is clean and the commuters seem to be happy – so why can’t every city uphold this sustainable lifestyle? Mikael Colville-Andersen asked this question back in 2007, and with that, coined the term ‘Copenhagenization’: the act of exporting the CPH bike lifestyle and urban infrastructure to another city.




Alfred Nobel invented dynamite in 1866, which earned him one of the 355 patents he had managed to assemble before his death in 1896. Through his life, he founded 90 companies and made a huge fortune. In his will he set up the Nobel Prizes for physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace.


The Zipper

The method still used today, based on interlocking teeth, was invented in 1913 by Gideon Sundbäck. Initially called the “hookless fastener.”


Wind Energy

Actually, Americans invented the wind turbine in 1888. Yet, Denmark was named the Green Capital of Europe in 2014 and is considered leaders in innovation in the field of wind power. Denmark is a leading producer of wind turbines, and works continuously toward environmentally sustainable energy.


New Nordic Wave

The development of Scandinavian food culture, design, and architecture has exploded in the past several years. Not only in Scandinavia, but around the world. Traditional Danish culture has been infused with new norms collaborated by Scandinavian chefs and designers alike. Several Danish architects, urban designers, and other designers have become world leaders in innovation in these areas, further enthralling the masses.


Lastly, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…


Well, it isn’t a word—it’s a feeling. And it’s definitely a Danish concept that everyone can get behind.  It’s that feeling you get when you come inside after a long, cold, windy day and see a beautiful dinner, and the whole house smells like frikadeller. It is the warmth of a fireside glow at the coffee shop, or a warmhearted conversation with a friend. It is woolen slippers and a plush blanket curled up with a book, or a quaint dinner party with your closest friends. Hygge is anything that makes you feel comfortable and content.




Check out The Danish Home’s Pinterest board for more, and tune in next week to read about The Greatest Scandinavian Contributions in Music!


Click here to learn about ongoing 125th events this year, and how you can “Catch the Spirit” and the prize!


See you next week!