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Danish, Cultural Life

The Danish Canadian Society, organized to coordinate Danish social and cultural events across the country, boasts a number of member organizations, many of which are based in Alberta. In Calgary, the Danish Canadian Club sponsors a variety of cultural and sporting events, a businessmen's association and a newsletter. Of particular interest is the Royal Danish Guards Association, whose membership consists of individuals who have served in the Royal Danish Guard. In Edmonton, the Danish Canadian community is organized through the Ansgar Danish Lutheran Church and the Danish Canadian Society "Dania". Outside of Calgary and Edmonton, notable Danish Canadian cultural institutions in Alberta are the Danish Canadian Club in Red Deer and the Danish Canadian National Museum located in Dickson.

Most of the Danish churches established on the prairies were Lutheran. They doubled as both religious and social centres for early Danish settlers. Many of the Canadian Danish Lutheran churches began as branches of Danish churches in the United States. Within the Danish Lutheran Church there were two divisions: the Grandtvigians and the Inner-Mission Beckians. The former were theologically liberal and very conscious of Danish culture, while the latter maintained a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. Of the Danish settlements in Alberta, only Dalvin was Grandtvigian.

In 1904, the Dickson congregation called its first pastor, J.D. Gundeson, from Wisconsin. Construction of the church began in 1907, making it the oldest United Evangelical Church in Canada.

Some of the early Danish settlements in Alberta had folk high schools based on the Danish model. The Dickson High School, established in 1930, is an example of such and also the oldest rural high school in Alberta.

Due to their small and scattered population, many Danish settlers were not able to maintain their cultural traditions. Settlers who came from the United States had already begun to marry people from other cultures and adopt the North American way of life. There is little language retention beyond the first generation and although there have been attempts on the part of the Danish community, lasting formal language programs have not been established.


Cultural traditions that have survived include Katten Af Tonden, a children's party where youngsters hit a suspended wooden barrel for a prize and St. Hans Fest, a celebration including singing and bonfires, used to banish bad spirits and ensure a healthy crop. St. Hans Fest is celebrated by the Calgary Danish Canadian Club on June 23rd, or the weekend nearest to that date.