Your Danish Post

Only four out of ten Danes put candles in the window at dusk on 4 May

If you go for a walk this evening, as dusk sets in, you may see burning candles in many windows. Not unusual in Denmark, however, this evening they are lit for a reason.

The article continues below.

The official papers, when the German army surrendered its troupes in all of Northern Europe and Denmark was declared free, were signed was on 4 May 1945. The signing took place in the midst of a dense forest outside Luneburg in Germany.

The place is not easy to find, and no local tourist guide book indicates where it is. However, a memorial stone was placed here in 1995 to commemorate the surrender on its 50th anniversary.

In 1945 the documents were signed by Admiral von Friedeburg and Fieldmarshal Montgomery.

Danes got the message of the surrender via radio during the late afternoon and early evening, and to mark the end of  the war imposed curfew banning all light at night, they lit candles and placed them in their windows.

The article continues below.

For the past 73 years this tradition has been upheld and is the the reason why you will see candles lit this evening.

However, as time passes it is a tradition which is no longer upheld by quite as many people.

In the latest countrywide survey made in 2015 by the Nationalt Center for Historie- og Kulturarvsformidling only 41 percent said they put candles in their windows on 4 May, 50 percent said they didn’t, and 9 percent said they did not remember if they did. The research was made in March 2015.

However, this does not mean that Danes do not believe in remembering and commemorating the end of the war. In the same survey, 73 percent said they found it important to keep the tradition, and 83 percent found it important to continue commemorating the 5 May, which is the official Danish liberation day.

Denmark was occupied by the Germans on the 9 April 1940, and 89 percent know that this is what the date stands for. Of course for those above the age of 50, 97 percent know the date, whereas “only” 73 percent of those below 35 can place it correctly.

A more recent survey has not been made.

The official celebration of Denmark’s liberation at the end of WW II is the 5 May. On this day you will see the Danish flag flying from flagpoles and busses, as it is an official flag flying day.

By Bente D. Knudsen  Pictures: Private and IWM BU 5207 ( the picture of the surrender)