I have a confession to make; I am a Dane. I'm not as Danish is the sweetroll I married, who is full blooded Dane. I'm only half Dane. When the relatives gather, the light glaring off the top of the towheads can sometimes be blinding. On Christmas after the food is eaten, the gifts are exchanged and we can see the end of the good wine, it begins. Slowly at first, even innocently, the strong cheeses appear, then the canned fish. Before long, bottles of Akvavit and Gammel Dansk are fetched from the freezer or back stoop. Then some, particularily the younger men, start throwing down the gauntlet, they begin establishing their "Danishness"; first by eating strong smelly cheeses and canned fish, and then by drinking Akvavit shots. Even Tim from up the street, who I believe is actually Irish, falls victim to the challenges.
Our Akvavit of choice is Aalborg, which is the nearest city to the village where my grandfather was born. Recently a novice from the Coast asked about how to drink Akvavit and I explained it to him, but I shorted him a little on the "ritual". From today's Minneapolis Tribune:
"Aquavit's strange attractions go beyond health. There's a mystical quality to the elixir; it's like a Scandinavian version of communion wine, fraught with ritual. The basic ritual goes like this:
Pour into a frozen aquavit glass (a special shot glass with a stem so your fingers won't warm the contents). Lift glass toward mouth and pause. Stare into eyes of everyone else holding a glass. Say the obligatory Danish toast, "Skaal." Drink -- to empty or not to empty is up to the individual. Look everyone in the eyes again. Set glass down."