The Big Dipper tilted across the western sky. A dazzling combo of Jupiter and Uranus had risen high in the east. And, about 10 men, nine Danes and an American (yours truly), were lighting up cigars after a night of revelry celebrating one of the Danes’ 25th wedding anniversary. The outdoor air at 1 a.m. was crisp, but apparently warm by early September standards in Denmark because some of the men were in shirtsleeves; the American was shivering, still in his sports coat and long-sleeved shirt.
The evening had been deeply steeped in tradition, with formal speeches by the spouses, their son, and a series of songs, poems and heartfelt toasts—some a little ribald—by friends from both sides of the couple; by heritage, the husband’s friends were all Danish, and the wife’s friends, mostly American. About 35 people sat at the table, mostly grouped by language facility, but with a lot of cross-cultural exchange happening all night long. Also by tradition, when the husband left the room to use the bathroom, all the men jumped up and circled around to the head table to kiss the wife; and vice-versa; when she left the room shortly thereafter, all the women headed for a quick smooch with the husband.
Of course, at the end of each toast, there was a loud Skål (pronounced skoal) shouted around the room, and an instruction to repeat a uniquely Danish chant, best described as a Nordic version of hooray, but pronounced more like “oooo, wahhhhh," and sounded out with either a short or long phrase on each syllable: so three shorts and a long was … well you get the idea. And, then, glasses were lifted and drinks were taken. The festivities started at around 6 p.m., and were still going at midnight. Thank goodness it was mostly wine and beer, and not Aquavit.
But shortly after the last course was served, and the toasts ended, the men looked eagerly to their cigar purveyor, moi. I had brought a sampler box of Dominican and Nicaraguan cigars for the evening, figuring that was easier, especially since not all were serious cigar smokers. We retired to the terrace behind a big building, formerly a barn on the manor house property where we were staying. I played the role of a classic cigar retailer, asking people what kind of things they liked to eat or drink, trying to figure out if they would like a stronger or milder smoke. The Man of the Night didn’t have a choice: I had a big Davidoff Millennium Perfecto for him, figuring after 25 years, he deserved a big smoke.
Whatever the reasons, the party really got rolling at that point, with shouts of “Gordon, you’re the man” and more stories about the adventures of the group throughout their lives. The stars were amazing too, untainted by lights from any big metropolitan area—Copenhagen was about two hours away. It was hard to not keep looking up into the heavens as the laughter and jokes kept coming and beer kept flowing. The cigars finally were smoked down to their nubs, but that didn’t end the party. It moved inside for several more hours, although my wife and I finally trundled off to bed about 2:45 a.m.
Just another reminder about how cigars bring people together, wherever they are, and whatever nation they call home.
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