When I was little, I was scared of opening some doors, turning off some lights. 28 years later I was still that girl. I still had the idea our apartment in Australia had a ghost. It was an old unit with high ceilings and a funny smell, so I immediately thought: there has to be a ghost here. I couldn’t sleep. I wanted to cancel the lease contract and go back to house hunting. Hunt houses like that. The kitchen door would creep the hell out of me. My friend Nadia rented a great house, nice and cheap because the kitchen window overlooked a cemetery. Her mother said it gave her bad vibe, and I have to say I did try to keep my eyes away from that window. My scientific rational self just vanishes to a doubt: What if? And I can’t believe in unicorns. But I secretly believed in ghosts.
Now that I’m living in hyggeligt Denmark, I’m cured. I understand why Danes hang around cemeteries at all times, play with their dogs, kiss, have little runs, picnics, read a book in a cemetery any time. Hey, why not? I walk myself through it and it is the most beautiful place. More grass than cement, more love than work. The names of the lovely folks that are dead and buried are discretely written on big rocks, marble shaped as rocks, Otto, Rasmus, Anne, Elsa. It feels like a little garden with old awesome trees, standing strong on all the minerals they get from the decomposed bodies or other random organic things. Minerals that have moved to better purposes. And it is ever so beautiful. I have no notion of anything scary under or anywhere. That thought does not even come to mind. It is like the folks became those rocks, stillness that is inanimate, molecules that will never react to others, closed cycles of physical existence, and life that has gone back to the source, love. The ritual is still intact, and I can’t see those rocks having messages different to a loved father, loved grandfather, missed mother, all seem to be great people with loving families that come with smiles and flowers, maybe candles. It must remain solemn and converse respect, timeless feelings, but still hold a little hygge, for the love of life.
It turns out in Denmark my fears are all gone. Thank you, Denmark.
I realise the point of cemeteries (church parks) is to love our family members and friends a bit longer. Just that. There is no mysticism to it, no ghosts, no phases in between. You go, you go. It makes sense to love them still, to put their names on rocks, but it doesn’t have to be creepy. There are no angry ghosts, and even if they were, why would that be scary? Why would they hang out alone doing creepy things? Wouldn’t they be smarter by now, kinder, sort of angels, stars?
And it got me thinking: Halloween, like all other Danish traditions, can only be Hygge, and that, by definition, defeats the purpose of Halloween. It is all fine with me. I’m cured.
#1 The cemetery in th photo is located in Aarhus, the church yard of St. Johannes kirke.
#2 Creepy in english is uhyggelig in Danish! There you go.
#3 “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.” So says scripture, and 71 percent of Danes accept that as fact, according to a recent poll. When asked what happens after death, only 16 percent of respondents said that they believed that they would be reunited with any sort of god, and just 12 percent said they believed in reincarnation.
The questions concerning life and death were posed to 2,000 Danes in a survey conducted by the Palliative Knowledge Centre.
“I am surprised that so few have a religious framework in understanding what happens when we die,” Helle Timm, the head of the centre, told the Kristeligt Dagblad newspaper. “The answers suggest that many Danes apparently have a very pragmatic and literal picture of what happens.”