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Danish Traditions

Hans Christian AndersenHANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN - (1805-1875)

Danish writer, famous for his fairy tales, which were not meant merely for children but for adults as well. Andersen used frequently colloquial style that disguises the sophisticated moral teachings of his tales. Before achieving success as a playwright and novelist, Andersen was trained as singer and actor. Many of Andersen's fairy tales depict characters who gain happiness in life after suffering and conflicts. 'The Ugly Duckling' is Andersen's most confessional work.

Hans Christian Andersen was born in Odense, Denmark in 1805.  At the age of 14, he traveled to Copenhagen to see a career.  He met Jonas Collin who helped him get a royal scholarship to continue his education.   

Hans wrote several things which were all turned down.  Finally, in 1835, he published the first of his 168 fairy tales and continued writing them until he died in 1875.  Among his most cherished works are The Ugly Duckling, The Tinder Box, The Emperor's New Clothes, The Little Mermaid, and Thumbelina.

The bust of Hans Christian Andersen shown here is on the grounds at the Danish Windmill. It is
a virtual geocache. To learn more about geocaching, go to

Some trivia facts about Hans Christian Andersen:
1.  He was over 6 feet tall and very, very thin.
 2.  His shoe size was 47-50 in Denmark (size 13-16 in the United States)
 3.  He like to travel, especially to Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, and Sweden, and
was one of the first to travel by train.
 4.  He liked to read and was fond of the opera.
 5.  He never rode a bicycle but did ride horses.
 6.  He was good with his hands and could make exquisite paper cutouts.
 7.  He spoke several different languages including Danish, German, Italian, French, & English.
 8.  He was afraid of fire.
 9.  He loved children and they loved to hear him read stories to them.
 10. He never married. 

Search our catalog for Hans Christian Andersen merchandise!

A Ship In Church

The Danish custom of hanging the replica of a sailing vessel in the church sanctuary is widespread in Denmark and in churches of Danish origin in America. It has two sources of origin. It must first of all be said that the custom of giving the replica of a ship to the sanctuary is very ancient. It can be traced back to times long preceding Christianity. The ancients believed that the offering of a miniature ship would assure a safe voyage for ship and its crew. Such a gift is called a votive offering. In the Christian era the magic character of this act faded away, but the tradition of carving and rigging a replica of the ship in which a retired seamen had spent his life remained as a hobby of many an old salt, and what better place could it be hung than in the parish church.

This folk custom coincided with an ancient Christian metaphor of comparing the church itself to a ship. Even to this day we call the main sanctuary of our churches the “nave”, and this name is obviously derived fro the Latin word navis, which means ship and which is the origin of words such as “navy” and “naval”. The metaphor of the church as a ship has many symbolic connections. We speak of the Christian life as a journey over the sea and we talk about a pilot that guides us. A well-known hymn reads: “Jesus, Savior, pilot me over life’s tempestuous sea.” The World of Council of Churches uses the ship with a cross as its mast as a symbol of ecumenism. The ship is probably not a major Christian symbol but it is an appropriate one.

Woven Danish Heart

This woven heart is easily made by cutting two patterns, one from red and one from white. The pattern is folded in half and cut up the center in three places.

Hold one pattern in each hand. Carefully weave the first loop of the piece in your right hand, under and over the piece in your left hand. Weave each of the loops in the same way.

It will look like a checkerboard. (See the woven heart below.) Staple a handle to the top of the woven heart and fill with goodies.

You can make the pattern smaller or larger depending on the size of heart you want. This is an old Danish custom.

The Legend of Queen Dagmar

The beloved Queen Dagmar (softly pronounced as Dow-mer with the accent on the first syllable) was born a princess in Bohemia. She was the wife of thirteenth-century ruler Valdemar the Victorious. Much loved by the people of Denmark, she died prematurely in 1212. She is still revered in Danish folk ballads by the people of Denmark even today. When her gravesite was removed in 1690 to make way for the tomb of Erik VI (Menved) and his Queen Ingeborg, a small gold cross with detailed enamel work was found on the breast of Queen Dagmar. It became known as the Dagmar Cross. It's believed to date from A.D. 1000.

The Dagmar Cross is of Byzantine design and workmanship. You will find several holy images on the cross. On one side of the cross is the Crucifixion. On the other side the half figure of Jesus Christ is in the center, with the Virgin to the left and St John the Evangelist on the right , and St Chrysostom is above and St Basil is below.

Our very fine sterling silver Dagmar Cross pendant is made in Denmark. It is available in 3 sizes: 1/2 inch, 3/4 inch, and one inch. We now have the Dagmar Cross available in the above-mentioned sized in gold. Use the "Search Our Catalog" feature or the navigation bar on the left-hand side and select "Jewelry". The Dagmar Cross has become a traditional symbol given as a gift on special occasions such as christenings and weddings.

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The Danish Windmill

P.O. Box 245, 4038 Main
Elk Horn, Iowa 51531
(712) 764-7472