Accepted paper:

Masks and mumming as cultural heritage


Carsten Bregenhøj

Paper short abstract:

Out of ignorance Danes believe that, due to the conversion to Protestantism in 1536, they have abolished the use of carnival and masks. New research has shown that Denmark's cultural history contains prevalent of cases linking it to the European traditions until this very day.

Paper long abstract:

In Denmark, a country in which 82 pct of the population are protestants, it is generally believed that masks have been abolished since the conversion to Protestantism in 1536. Until at least the mid twentieth century it was argued that carnivals and masks belonged to the Catholics or primitive peoples, Africans or Eskimos. Since the Renaissance European princes competed in splendor. Danish kings were no different and adopted whatever was the fashion. During the period from around 1650 to 1730 the royal whims had a special impact on the Danish festive calendar. One instance is shown in the depicted masquerade in the ceiling painting from 1711 at the Frederiksberg Castle - Copenhagen. In present day Denmark the trends are shifting. As pointed out in media theory we experience a remediation in most fields of communication. Where traditions (or intangible heritage) used to be transmitted orally it is now communicated in other ways, in writing, as sms or mail or in the social media. In Danish islands with a unique Twelfth Night mumming tradition the islanders no longer relay on common knowledge, they negotiate their custom through many channels. The Danes also embrace a re-enactment of the Catholic Shrovetide traditions as realized in the Samba or May Carnivals. The custom took its beginning in 1982 and coincided with a growing need for creativity and innovation in both social and industrial contexts. This is a lasting endeavor - one such May Carnival thrives in a positive atmosphere of youth and international inspiration.

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The multifaceted ritual