Copenhagen Silvester with The Royals
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Michael Illum, Copenaghen

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Copenhagen Silvester with The Royals

In Copenhagen people celebrate New Year’s Eve with several traditions: waiting for the Queen’s speech, the honour guard salute and the fireworks show. For dinner, it’s cod time: have you caught yours yet?

There are two main traditions that run paramount though the Copenhagen New Year’s celebration (three, if you add food traditions to the mix). The Queen’s address and rambunctious fireworks. At either end of the evening, it all runs like a finely set clock. Around the city, on television screens and in some places on big-screens, it all begins with citizens following the annual honour guard, as performed by the Royal Guards, televised live from Amalienborg Palace, home to the Royal family.

The castle square will be open to the public during the ceremony. It takes place immediately before and after the Queen gives her annual, televised address to her subjects. It is a very popular pastime for families, to go to the imposing palace square and watch the honour guards unfold, in their carefully orchestrated act, that ends in a ceremonial salute, precision fired upon completion of her Majesty’s speech.

Around in the city, people of all walks of life, will stand in their living rooms, in restaurants, cafés and hotel lobbies, while listening to the popular Queen deliver her yearly admonishing, to her bemused people. It is not uncommon that Danes in general dress up for this occasion. Her Majesty’s speech begins exactly at six o´clock (1800 hours) and ends roughly about 30 minutes later, to the tune of the national anthem.

After this ceremony, it is pretty much a free for all, until we get close to the hour of midnight. Fireworks are very, very popular and there are generally very liberal laws in place, with regards to firing off rockets and other loud and fire-spewing devices. The pitch-black midnight sky in Copenhagen also provides a perfect backdrop to the countless, colourful fireworks that erupt over the city. At this precise hour, everyone is hoping for a clear night sky! Firework shows continue well into the night; A visitor would be excused to think he or she had landed in a warzone, such is the determination of the people on the streets of Copenhagen, to enter the New Year with a Bigger Bang! All in good fun though. If you want to partake in the fun, bring protective goggles!

There are two (highly recommended) points in the city to partake in the festivities. The Town Hall Square (Rådhuspladsen) because it is the largest square in the city and it is where, traditionally, most people gather on this evening, also because of its vicinity to the Tivoli Gardens, which on New Year’s Eve deliver their very famous and much loved and most impressive fireworks display. At the other end of town, Kongens Nytorv puts on a slightly more gentrified performance, but in no way sedated. The views from the square towards New Harbour (Nyhavn) are grand, especially when the many fireworks reflect the waters and deliver a double punch.

Have you caught your codfish?

Before the city goes into serious party mode and the sky above is in flames, dinner is on offer at multitudes of restaurants that stay open, all with their own celebratory dinner menus, replete with drinks, cocktails and Champagne. This is a party evening in the city. And one fish is the star of the night: cod.

A traditional New Year dish: boiled cod with condiments. As old as time. People order their New Year’s cod months in advance (!) and it is also a rich tradition to head up along the North Shores, and go on one of many organized fishing trips into the South, and if need be, further into the Baltic in search for this delicacy. In some families, it is a hallmark to catch and provide their own codfish for this very auspicious and beloved evening.

If you plan on dining out, it is very important to book restaurants and bars in advance.