Pebersvend - Gastro Obscura
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Ritual & Medicinal

Pebersvend

The way to celebrate unmarried Danes’ 25th and 30th birthdays is to attack them with spices.

Hundreds of years ago, traveling spice salesmen were notorious bachelors. They never stayed in one place for long enough to settle down, and he who never found a partner was dubbed a Pebersvend—literally, a “pepper companion.” Even as wandering trader gigs died off, Danes continued to refer to unmarried adults as spice salesmen. A single woman became a Pebermø, or “pepper maiden.” And what more appropriate way to celebrate an unwed individual’s birthday than by dousing them head-to-toe in spice?

The average Dane marries in their early to mid-thirties, so most of them are single when their 25th birthday rolls around, which calls for getting “cinnamon-ed.” Often, friends attack the birthday pebersvend or pebermø by tying them to a lamppost, making them don goggles, and then pelting them with handfuls of spice. Some strategic celebrants add eggs to the batter for maximum adhesion.

At age 30, the cinnamon attack is upgraded to pepper, and the birthday victim is likely to receive at least one pepper grinder as a gift. Sometimes, participants also build a big pepper grinder sculpture made from oil cans out in the yard, which may bear an uncanny resemblance to genitalia. And after merrymakers finish up a few (or several) rounds of spice-bombing, everyone heads out for a few (or several) rounds at the bar.

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