Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Autumn in Denmark: The slow fading of the light

Autumn in Denmark actually starts in mid-August, when the kids go back to school. Danish kids have a very short holiday – usually only about 6 weeks. By late August, you can definitely feel a little fall crispness in the air. By September the leaves start to turn color, and by the end of October many of the trees are already bare for the winter.

But what really defines fall in Denmark is the slow fading of the light.

In June, or July, or even August you have those wonderful long evenings where the sunlight lasts to almost 10pm. People sit outside at their summerhouses or on their balconies in the city, drinking a glass of wine, or a cup tea, just chatting and enjoying the wonderful scent of the summer air.

It’s in September that you start to notice there are a lot fewer hours of daylight….and then in October it’s often dark when you leave the house for work in the morning.

Once the clocks are set back at the end of October – the big winter darkness has arrived.

Trying to outrun the light
But before that, people are very active in Denmark during the fall, almost as if they’re trying to outrun the light. It’s a busy time for schools, it’s a busy time for companies, and it’s a busy time for shops, selling all the sweaters and boots and coats people are going to be wearing until…oh, April or May of next year.

Fall is a great time for people who love fresh fruit, because it’s when Danish plums and pears and particularly apples are at their peak.

In fact, there are so many different type of Danish apples I get confused in the supermarket – should I pick the Ingrid Marie apples, or the Filippa apples, or the Gråsten apples – that’s Denmark’s national apple. One local supermarket lists 17 different types of apples on its website – that’s a lot of apples to keep track of.

You can go apple-picking if you like, or you can just take a walk in the woods and enjoy Denmark’s wonderful nature in fall, with all the golden reds and oranges and yellows of the leaves.

Staying in Denmark for Fall Vacation
Danes get a week’s vacation in mid-October, called Fall Vacation for the kids at school, and a lot of them choose to stay in Denmark – unlike, say, the winter vacation during the ugliest days of February. Everybody who can afford to gets out of Denmark during winter vacation.

But in Fall Vacation there’s lots to do. Copenhagen has its famous Culture Night, where otherwise inaccessible places like steeples and castle attics and are open to the public. And Tivoli Gardens now has a regular Halloween season, with a giant pumpkin contest that ambitious Danish farmers try to win. Last year’s pumpkin set a record – it was almost 500 kilos. Seriously, it was the size of one of those electric smart cars. Huge pumpkin.

Halloween is a relatively new holiday in Denmark, adopted from the US. Some people say that’s just creeping Americanization, but I think it’s also because there are not really any traditional Danish holidays in fall, so there was an opening in the calendar.

I guess there’s Morten’s Aften in November, but all you really do on Mortensaften is eat duck for dinner. That’s because in the 3rd century Morten was a man who hid among ducks or geese. So now we eat ducks or geese on November 10.

Candy or trouble!
But the American holiday of Halloween has become very popular, particularly among very small children. In my apartment building, the little ones dress up as ghosts or witches and go door to door saying Slik eller ballade, which means Candy or Trouble! I always pretend to be very afraid of them – Oh, no, please no trouble – and then I give them some candy.

Anyway, fall in Denmark is a great time to get things done. If you’re looking for a job, fall is a time when a lot of people get hired, because companies and agencies have to use up their annual budgets by the end of the year.

If you’re applying to a school, a lot of places have terms that start in January or February that might not get as many applications as their August or September terms.

A hundred or a thousand years ago, fall in Denmark was a busy time too, as people brought in the harvest and prepared for the long winter.

It’s a good time for you to prepare too, for all the dark nights ahead, particularly in the months after Christmas. Start a craft project, get some fat books or download a really major box set.

Because when autumn in Denmark is over, there’s nothing ahead but the long Danish winter.


Hear all our How to Live in Denmark podcasts on Spotify and on Apple Podcasts (iTunes).

Kay Xander Mellish books


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Image mashup copyright Kay Xander Mellish 2024

Read also:

Danish beaches in winter: White light and bitter wind
More Snow Tomorrow: Surviving Winter as a Foreigner in Denmark
Danes and Spring: Hot wheat buns and highly-educated drunks
Summer vacation in Denmark: The Agony and the Ecstasy
Danish summer: Why you should run outside now
Summerhouse or doll house: What to expect if you’re invited to a Danish summer home

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