WEEKEND BRIEFING
Tradition

Aug. 22 - I've been blogging the wedding for three days now. On Tuesday it was my barefootedness, on Wednesday it was my bewilderment, and yesterday it was about the importance of good wedding photography. Those three entries more or less covered our twenty minute wedding ceremony.

It doesn't seem likely I'll be able to cover the ten-hour reception in a single blog, so I'll wrap up the week with an overview of Danish wedding traditions in order to make next week's blogging about the reception that much easier to follow. (Digressions will be the death of me.)

As in most cultures, Danish wedding receptions are built on a foundation of alcohol. Champagne, wine, beer, and cocktails serve three important social functions: they lubricate the festivities, loosen tongues, and make catering profitable.

I have the bill from our reception before me. The DMB and I, with our fifty guests, consumed fifty champagne cocktails (two of our guests were children—American children, not yet trained to drink), two bottles of champagne, 19 bottles of chardonnay, 37 bottles of merlot, 6 bottles of sparkling wine, 66 draft beers, and one bottle each of whiskey, gin, and vodka. This excludes the cash bar, which did a brisk business in cocktails all evening. Compare that to the 9 little bottles of mineral water consumed by the group over the course of the evening and it's reasonable to conclude our guests were adequately lubricated.

This is probably no different than it would have been in the states—or in Rome, Moscow, Tokyo, Perth, or Johannesberg.

As I've noted repeatedly on these pages, the Danes are exceptionally fond of toasting and singing on even the most mundane occassions. ("It only rained once today! Skål!") In fact, the DMB—can I call her Trine now? It's a little rough being married to an acronym, and I suppose she'd have a harder time suing me—Trine once explained to me that the main difference in drinking habits between the heavy-drinking Swedes and heavier-drinking Danes is that the Swedes will take advantage of every possible opportunity to celebrate (read "drink"), whereas the Danes will invent a reason to celebrate whenever they feel like drinking. Toasting and song are an integral part of this collective cultural rationalization. Danes don't have drinking problems—they simply suffer from a surfeit of celebration.

Most Danish festivities that feature a sit-down dinner will also feature a master of ceremonies. (As an example, you can apparently see Klaus Bondam, the very man that married us, serving as emcee in the popular Danish flick Festen, available in the states as The Celebration. I say "apparently" because I didn't even know Klaus Bondam was a famous Danish actor until after we'd arranged to have him marry us, so I certainly don't remember whether or not he was in a film I saw three years ago.) The emcee arranges the order of prepared toasts and speeches, but spontanaeity is by no means discouraged. Toward the end of most events, I'm told, even the shrinking violets have been sufficiently liquored up to offer a toast, a joke, a song—or an incoherent string of non-sequiturs followed by projectile vomiting and unconsciousness.

The Danish sense of humor is nowhere better displayed than in their wedding toasts and speeches, which can run the gamut from scathing to incendiary. There is some restraint toward the bride, but the groom is fair game. (Ironically enough, I took the hardest verbal drubbing from my American best man, who took to Danish tradition like a Swede to herring.)

At a Danish wedding reception—a bryllupfest—all of these toasts and songs and speeches are typically accompanied by games, multimedia presentations, and quizzes. It's not unusual for the speaker to distribute handouts such as song lyrics, poems, questionnaires, or incriminating photographs.

All of this must happen over the course of the meal, however. That's why the dinner at a Danish wedding reception is usually four or five hours long. The only thing that stops them from running longer is yet another Danish tradition: that the bride and groom must take their first married dance on their wedding day—that is, before midnight. (This tradition was probably developed as a defense against twelve-hour dinners.)

Adding to the interest of mealtime are the kissing traditions. Whenever the groom leaves the room, all the men in the room rush over and queue up to kiss the bride. Whenever the bride leaves the room, all the women rush over to kiss the groom. The use of tongue is discouraged.

The bride and groom can be compelled to kiss one another by the guests at any time. If the guests strike their plates with their flatware, the bride and groom must step up on their chairs and kiss. If the guests pound their feet on the floor, the bride and groom must go under the table to smooch. (If the guests strike their feet with their flatware or their plates with their feet, all bets are off.)

You will not hear "Sunrise Sunset" as a first dance at a Danish wedding. Instead, a traditional Danish waltz is played and the bride and groom begin their dance in the center of the floor, all the guests around them in a wide ring, clapping faster and faster and inching up on the bride and groom until at last they have no room to dance and must kiss. In the middle of this kiss, the groom is wrenched away from his bride and held up in the air while someone comes along and cuts off the toes of his socks.

There is some dispute about the origins of this tradition. Some say it has to do with checking to be sure the groom hasn't been sneaking around at night—if his socks smell like rye, he's a cad. Others say it's intended to force the bride to prove her sewing skills. Both interpretations seem strained to me—after all, it's a little late to find out whether the groom is a cheating dog or the bride is a lousy homemaker. Even if the experiment were undertaken with an eye toward annulment, you'd hardly need to take a physical sample of the groom's sock—you could just smell his feet—and the bride could be handed an old napkin, a spool of thread, and a needle if her sewing skills were really in question. So I'm guessing people just like cutting the groom's socks.

I think that covers most of the Danish traditions that vary from our own. Even if it doesn't, I have to move on.

[To be continued.]

Reader Mail

On August 6, a reader from Theramp.net wrote: "I have been noticing lately that all of my closest friends' closest friends are morons. How does this reflect on me? I don't think I am a moron, although the test said I was, I submitted a moron story, and I have been thoroughly entertained in this site for over an hour. If I recognize others in an unflattering moronic way, does this mean I, too, am a moron, or am I supremely better than an average moron, like say, you?"

Being a moron isn't like being a Mason, with all those ranks and degrees—it's a digital thing, on or off, 0 or 1, True or False, Moron or Not Moron.

Your intellectual and emotional involvement in the question—to say nothing of the fact that you were entertained by this site—suggest that you are, in fact, a moron like the rest of us. As a moron, you are absolutely entitled to the hypocrisy required to disdain your friends' friends for being something you (not so) secretly suspect yourself of being.

And remember the Golden Rule of Moronism: every moron is supremely better than every other moron.

On August 14, a reader from AOL cited a line from one of my daily briefings ("The average healthy human farts sixteen times per day, mostly in their sleep") and asked, "How do you know this? Do you have a fart counting machine?"

This is another rightly-inspired but poorly-constructed question. First of all, if I had a fart counting machine, I would only be able to count my farts, and possibly those of the DMB. We may be above average, we may be below it, or we may be smack dab on the hallowed ground of absolute medianhood, or meridianity, or whatever you want to call it—but we don't qualify as a valid statistical sample.

"Well," you might argue, "surely you could measure the farts of other people as long as you had a machine." And surely I could, if I were willing to persuade people to live at my house twenty-four hours a day so their flatulence could be tallied by my machine. I am not. And all that's beside the point: my fart machine hasn't worked in years.

No, I got the data from a scientific source which, like all other scientific sources cited on these electric pages, is highly questionable and probably no more reliable than the guys at the corner bodega—but a lot less entertaining.

But this raises a question that often troubles me. We talk about the separation between science and faith as though it were something we could all take for granted, but I wonder... Scientists have told me the speed of light, and I believe them (even though I've already forgotten it). But I couldn't prove it or disprove it on my own any more than I could prove or disprove that the father and son are one, or two, or three.

I'm not saying science is crap. It's not. In fact, it's done as much for humanity as any other human endeavor—it's certainly done more to improve our lot, for example, than Interpretive Dance. But as far as we poor moronic non-scientists are concerned, it might as well be religion, and our scientists might as well be priests.

So, yeah. I know that we fart sixteen times a day (on average) because a priest told me.

On August 20 a reader from Yahoo.com asked, "Who is Eugen Augustin Lauset?"

According to someone, somewhere, the Parisien Lauset patented the first motion picture with sound on August 11, 1906.

Career Suicide, Part III

On August 22, 1485, at the Battle of Bosworth, England's King Richard III was terminated for having made a fiscally irresponsible bid on a horse.

On August 23, 1305, Scottish patriot William Wallace was persuaded to take an early retirement. According to one eyewitness: "He was hung in a noose, and afterwards let down half-living; next his genitals were cut off and his bowels torn out and burned in a fire; then and not till then his head was cut off and his trunk cut into four pieces. At this point he was given a gold watch, and a humorous card that we had all signed."

Niccola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were terminated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on August 23, 1927.

In the year 79, on August 24, the entire city of Pompeii was fired by Mount Vesuvius.

On August 24, 1967, George Lincoln Rockwell, the leader of the American Nazi Party, was relieved of his duties by means of the usual Nazi method: he was shot to bloody hell.

And on August 24, in the year 410, in what was possibly the largest layoff in history, all of Rome was sacked.

Birthdays and Holidays

Born on August 22: Tori Amos (1963), Cindy Williams (1947), Valerie Harper (1940), Carl Yastrzemski (1939), Norman Schwarzkopf (1934), Ray Bradbury (1920), John Lee Hooker (1917), Deng Xiaoping (1904), Dorothy Parker (1893), and Claude Debussy (1862).

Born on August 23: River Phoenix (1970), Shelley Long (1949), Rick Springfield (1949), Barbara Eden (1934), Mark Russell (1932), Gene Kelly (1912), and Louis XVI (1754).

Born on August 24: Marlee Matlin (1965), Cal Ripken, Jr. (1960), Steve Guttenberg (1958), Elvis Costello (1954), and Yasser Arafat (1929).

August 23 is Liberation Day in both Laos and Romania, and August 24 is Independence Day in Ukraine.

Enjoy the weekend!

© 2003, The Moron's Almanac™

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