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Danish word of the day: Jævndøgn

The light and the dark side are now in balance.

What is jævndøgn?

Jævndøgn the term used to describe the spring (forårsjævndøgn) and autumn (efterårsjævndøgn) equinoxes.

On the day of an equinox, daytime and nighttime are of approximately equal duration (this is true at the same time all over the planet, not just in Denmark).

The word used in English, equinox, comes from Latin: aequus (equal) and nox (night). The Danish term is directly related to Old English and Norse. Jævn is an adjective similar to “even” and can be used to describe a physical quality (en jævn overflade is “an even surface”), as well as to mean “equal”.

While jævn is “equal” when talking about the equinox and in various other formulations related to measurement, a different word, lighed or ligestilling, is used to mean “equality”.

Døgn is a useful Danish word that doesn’t have an exact English translation but can both mean “a day” or “a 24-hour period”. It’s usually used in preference to the more common dag (“day”) when talking about the amount of time within a day, and not to the day in general.

For example, a store that is open 24 hours a day is described as døgnåbent, “24-hour-open”. If you arbejder døgnet rundt you work all hours of the day.

Putting jævn and døgn together gives you the Danish word for equinox, jævndøgn, literally “equal 24-hours”.

Why do I need to know jævndøgn?

September 23rd (sometimes 22nd) is the autumn equinox. From that date onwards, days include more dark minutes than light ones.

The longest night of the year will fall on December 21st, the winter solstice, when Denmark can expect 17 hours of darkness. The Danish word for solstice is solhverv, from sol (sun) and hverv, an archaic word for “turning”.

On March 20th the spring equinox or forårsjævndøgn, things switch back as spring approaches and there is once again more light than dark.


The “j” in jævn is pronounced like the “y” in “yellow and the “v” as a “w”, giving you “yæwn”.

To say døgn, imagine you are saying “boy” but replacing the b with a d. Then add an “n” at the end.


I dag er det jævndøgn, hvor dag og nat er lige lange.

Today is the equinox, when day and night are the same length.

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For members


Danish word of the day: Marcipangris

For when you hog the Christmas party prizes.

Danish word of the day: Marcipangris

What is marcipangris? 

marsipangris, or marzipan pig, is just that: a pig figurine made out of marzipan, often covered in chocolate.

This delicious confectionary animal pops up in various sizes in many supermarkets, confectionery, and speciality shops in Denmark during the festive season, and is also commonly referred to as a julegris (“Christmas pig”).

The marcipangris is popularly used as a prize given to the winner of Christmas games at holiday gatherings. The classic Christmas game with which it is associated is the risalamande challenge. 

Risalamande is a hugely popular cold rice sweet mixed with whipped cream, vanilla and chopped almonds and served with cherry sauce.

By tradition, one whole almond is left in the mix, which is then spooned into everyone’s bowls when it’s time to have dessert after Christmas dinner.

Whoever finds the whole almond wins a present (the mandelgave or “almond gift”), which is customarily a julegris. The game is often fixed so that a child (or children) wins the prize.

Why do I need to know marcipangris?

According to, the “almond gift” custom originated in France, but risalamande – despite its French-sounding name – is very much Danish.

That is because increasingly creative ways to make meals using rice emerged in Denmark after rice became a more inexpensive ingredient in the 1800s.

Meanwhile, it was tradition to slaughter a pig to give fresh (rather than salted) meat for the Christmas meal, despite the popularity of duck as a Danish Christmas dinner staple in later years.

As such, there is some sense in the link between a pig and a sweet-tasting Christmas treat.