A Family Reunion
In 2016, I set out to learn more about my Scandinavian heritage. The Olsen name comes from Norway, but I am not in contact with any relatives there. However, I happen to have several Webber family members in Denmark, who all have summer houses on the Danish Island of Møn. This was the perfect place to begin the search.
My grandmother's brother, whom I call Uncle Capp, moved to Denmark from the United States two generations ago with his Norwegian wife. Since then they have begotten a large family of children (half American and half Norwegian) and grandchildren (half Danish, one-quarter American, one-quarter Norwegian). With the family, I learned the meaning of hygge, the infamous Danish experience of "coziness" that is shared when family and friends get together in each other's homes. They also showed me around the island. Overall, it was a pleasant and relaxed experience with very few cares.
Past and Present
Danes and Norwegians both descend from the Viking culture of the Norse. On Møn, there are Viking burial mounds made of stone more than 3500 years old. Especially in the countryside where there are a lot of farms, you get the feeling of a relaxed lifestyle that isn't dependent on modern entertainment. And yet modern conveniences do help us all share in hygge together. Møn is a great place to connect with reality and with the past, which was exactly my intention.
The "Grand Canyon of Denmark" is called Møns Klint, a white-ish cliff formation along the eastern coast of the island.
Lutheran churches abound in Denmark. The churches on Møn contain frescoes painted on the ceilings to represent different scenes from the Bible. Each church has a small replica of a ship hanging in the nave to represent the church as a body of people united together on the voyage through life.
I have always enjoyed the calm and familiar music of traditional Protestant churches, even though I didn't grow up going to church like my Norwegian ancestors did. In the Danish context, I tried to experience it as a kind of hygge. In fact, there is a word for it: kirkehygge means the good times you have feeling at home in church.
What made the family experience profound was that I could communicate with them in Danish. Before visiting Møn, I had spent six months teaching myself the language with books, video, and audio recordings. Danish is similar enough to English that I caught on pretty quickly. For one lunch we made snobrød, bread cooked on an open fire.
Dinners were relaxing, and we stayed outside long enough to watch the sunset.
This is one of many videos out there that attempt to explain hygge.