Why Danes light candles in their windows tonight

No it’s not a national ‘hygge’ session, but rather an ode to when the darkness of the Nazi occupation gave way to brighter days

With the number of candles being lit in windows across the country tonight, you’ll be forgiven to wonder if Danish ‘Hygge’ has gone into overdrive.

But actually, many people in Denmark light candles on this particular day every year.

On May 4th 1945 the Danish journalist Johannes Gunnar Sørensen, who reported from London via BBC Radio during World War II providing the occupied Danish population with news, was in the studio as he used to. 

The war was expected to end shortly, but no one knew when the Nazi regime, which had occupied Denmark since April 9 1940, would surrender.  

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Golden words from a golden voice
Suddenly there’s a pause in the broadcast from London.

The silence ends when Johannes Gunnar Sørensen says: “I dette øjeblik meddeles det, at Montgomery har oplyst, at de tyske tropper i Holland, Nordvesttyskland og i Danmark har overgivet sig.” 

(“At this moment it is announced that Montgomery has informed that the German troops in the Netherlands, northwest Germany and Denmark have surrendered.”)

Following another break he repeats the message.

READ ALSO: Last living member of famous Danish WWII resistance group dies

Brightening darkened window panes
The message from London sparked huge celebrations in the streets. Five years of German occupation officially ended on May 5, 1945.

But shortly after the ‘message of liberty’ on May 4, many Danes tore down the black curtains that the Nazi regime had declared to be mandatory in Danish windows. 

And to further celebrate freedom, Danes lit candles in windows to signal liberation from the darkened panes and those who imposed it.

So when people in Denmark light up candles in windows tonight, it’s to celebrate freedom and in memory of those who fell.

The long liberation
The island of Bornholm might be the exception.

Soviet troops landed on the island on 9 May 1945 and holdout Germans finally surrendered.

But the islanders were forced to wait almost a year for liberation as the Soviets remained on Bornholm until 5 April 1946.

Johannes Gunnar Sørensen later became known as the Golden Voice. He died in 1989.