Sunday, January 6, 2008

Knut's Day

I was trying to tell my friend at work about Knut's Day - a traditional Swedish holiday (Tjugondedag Knut).

"Like the German polar bear Knut?" my friend said, pronouncing it "newt."

I explained that our tradition to toss out the Christmas tree and take down all decorations 20 days after Christmas while singing and dancing has nothing to do with an overweight white bear. The holiday has been around longer than Knut has been alive, but where does it really come from?

I turned to my friend Wikipedia and found that Knut was a king of Denmark from 1080 to 1086 (King Canute IV, to Americans). Knut was supposedly honored as a saint for his virtue and generosity, and he later claimed the throne of England. This king declared that Christmas should be celebrated for 20 days, officially ending the season on Jan. 13, according to Wikipedia (and we all know how reliable that source is...)

If there are candies on the tree, these are removed and eaten on Knut's Day, and it is OK to crush gingerbread houses and eat them on this day.

Ironically the holiday is not celebrated in Denmark, just in Sweden and Finland. In England, it is celebrated each year by the Wandering Hands, in either Bristol or London, whatever that may be...

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