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Candles will grace the windows in Denmark on 4 May at dusk

If you go for a walk as dusk sets in on the evening of 4 May you will see burning candles in many windows. Not unusual in Denmark, however, this year, they will be lit for two specific reasons: Denmark’s liberation and the war in Ukraine.

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

In Denmark, the 4 May commemorates the surrender of the German army in all of Northern Europe and Denmark subsequently was declared free.

The papers were signed was on 4 May 1945 in the midst of a dense forest outside of Luneburg in Northern Germany.

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

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 (of 4 May) and to mark the end of the war, with its imposed curfew banning all light at night, they lit candles and placed them in their windows.

The candle lighting tradition on 4 May has been upheld since 1945  and is the the reason why candles are lit on 4 May, in 2022, they mark the 77 years since the 2nd World War officially ended in Denmark.

This year however the war in Ukraine puts an extra perspective on Denmark’s liberation; two special events will take place in Aarhus and Denmark to acknowledge Denmark’s support of the Ukraine in its fight for freedom and independence.

Light a candle for Ukraine on 4 May takes place with the participation of the President of the Ukraine who will speak live from Ukraine directly to Danish residents.

In Aarhus and in Copenhagen there will be large video screens present from which Danes can listen to President Volodymyr Zelenskyi as he speaks live from Kyiv.

The event takes place from 21:00 to 21:30.

In Aarhus, residents can take part at Bispetorv, here the Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod will speak as well.

In Copenhagen, residents can go to Rådhuspladsen where Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen will speak.

The event is hosted and organised by the Danish newspaper group, Jyllands Posten/Politiken, with the support of the Ambassador of the Ukraine in Denmark.

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Prior to COVID and the war in the Ukraine the candle lighting tradition was gradually fading as time passed in what was seen as an era of freedom in Europe.

Most likely in 2022, with a war in Europe, this will change and many candles will grace windows all over the country.

We will find out on Wednesday evening.

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 buses as it is an official flag flying day.

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No recent surveys have been made of the candle lighting tradition, the latest countrywide survey was made in March 2015 by Nationalt Center for Historie- og Kulturarvsformidling. At the time  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.

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 of all Danes asked in the survey, 89 percent know that this is what that date stands for.

For those above the age of 50, 97 percent know the date, whereas “only” 73 percent of those below 35 can place it correctly.

In 2022, this may change and the candle lighting tradition be revived due to the war in Europe.