Mortens Aften in Denmark: A tradition that gathers families

by Aske M. Randa

In Denmark, Mortens Aften (St. Martin’s Day) is a beloved holiday celebrated on the 10th of November each year.

Mortens Aften is named in honour of St. Martin of Tours, a 4th-century bishop who is known for his acts of kindness and for sharing his cloak with a beggar.

The day is a time for Danes to reflect on generosity and community.

The Mortens Aften feast

At the heart of Mortens Aften celebrations is a sumptuous feast, and the centrepiece of this meal is typically roast duck or goose.

Many Danes indulge in a rich and flavorful duck dinner, which symbolizes the tradition of St. Martin’s feast when he hid in a goose pen to avoid being ordained as a bishop. The noise of the geese gave him away, leading to his ordination.

The choice of duck over goose for the feast can be attributed to practical reasons in the beginning. Geese were known for being larger and more expensive than ducks, making duck a more accessible and manageable choice for the celebratory meal back in the day.

The duck has since then stayed on the dinner table in many Danish homes at Mortens Aften.

Roast duck is often accompanied by an array of delicious side dishes, including potatoes, gravy, red cabbage, and crispy caramelized potatoes known as “brunede kartofler.” The combination of flavours and textures makes this meal a gastronomic delight.

Celebrating with friends and family

Mortens Aften is also a time for gathering with friends and family.

In the spirit of St. Martin’s generosity, people come together to enjoy the feast and each other’s company. It is a moment to share warmth during the darkening days of autumn.

Mortens Aften provides a wonderful opportunity for internationals to immerse themselves in Danish culture and tradition. It is a time when the values of community and togetherness are celebrated with delicious food and joyful gatherings.

As the duck is roasted to perfection and families come together to share in the warmth of the season, Mortens Aften is a time for connection, and the beginning of the Danish holiday season.

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