The Dark is Rising

OK, I totally ripped off the title for this blog post from a Susan Cooper novel – which is a really excellent book by the way and which you should all go read now – but it’s for a good purpose. Well, mostly I did it because it’s catchy. But I also did it to emphasize a point: the dark has come to Denmark. And it’s both exactly what I expected and totally different.

The expected part is that as of today the sun doesn’t rise until about 8am and it sets by 4:30pm. So poor Brian goes to and from work in the dark. (Like in the dark dark, with bike headlights and reflective gear required.) This early dark in the evening has the effects you would expect. It always feels about 2 hours later than it actually is, so we’ve found ourselves going to bed earlier than we normally would. And Brian has serious trouble some days in waking up and getting going in the morning.

Surprisingly, you really do feel the effect when the sun goes down. Sometimes, we’ll be out running errands around 4:30pm, and I definitely feel a difference in my body and energy level as that sun sinks towards the horizon. It’s like your body is saying, “OK enough of this galavanting around. Time to have dinner and go to bed.”

The unexpected thing is that even while the sun is up it casts a kind of dim, half-powered light. Because where Denmark is on the Earth has rotated away from the sun, it never fully rises into the sky. Now, it’s not anything like Northern Alaska where the sun just skims the horizon, but it never reaches apogee either. And this fact makes even sunny days dimmer, like there’s a haze. Or like you only ever get afternoon light. So you go outside thinking it’s 11am, but the quality of the light is telling your body that it’s in the afternoon and getting towards dark. It’s the weirdest thing.

And the stupidly unexpected thing – the thing I really should have expected but didn’t for some reason – is that it is rarely sunny in Denmark in the fall/winter. It is usually overcast and misting. So even when the sun does “rise” (note the sarcastic quotes) at 8am, it remains dark and cloudy all day. Which means that it feels like the sun rises even later and sets even earlier than it actually does.

This seems to be having the most negative effect on moods and energy levels in our house. When the sun does shine for a few hours a day, at least we have clear, bright sunlight for those few hours. But this constant gloaming twilight is a whole other ball game. It just kind of feels like you have to push a little harder. And it’s harder for me to do certain things – like, ahem, study for my upcoming Danish test – when it feels like it’s evening and thus I should be relaxing.

This is only going to get worse, of course – The Dark is Rising, remember – until December 21st, the shortest day of the year. Thank god for Christmas and all the hygge it entails.

P.S. For those with some questions on the concept of hygge, watch this video of Danes describing the concept as they walk the rainy streets of Copenhagen.


15 thoughts on “The Dark is Rising

    • Yeah, it’s a bit of a shock to the system. It’s not the end of the world or anything, but it takes some adjusting. Have you gotten used to it yet?


      • Yes I’ve gotten used to it, but Winter is my favorite season so I think the adjustment was a little easier for me – I love the dark!

        Your observations of the change are perfect. I wrote about it back in April 2008 from a different perspective – how intrusive the longer, lighter days were!

        But these changes are exciting; we couldn’t experience this in the mid-west or east coast of the U.S. 🙂

        (Yes, I’ve been told I’m not normal. 😉 Of course I have to agree.)


      • I can totally understand the drawbacks of the really long days. We got here at the end of July, so we haven’t yet experienced the sun from 4am until 10pm kind of day, but I could see how you would just want it to be dark already.

        However, given my druthers, I’d rather have the sun than the dark 🙂

        But I hope you enjoy your favorite season! I’m looking forward to enjoying the Christmas hygge.


  1. Allison –

    Loved today’s blog, especially the video on hygge….can’t wait to get some hygge while I’m there and I definitely hope it involves chocolate and sweets! Now for a quick observation — I can’t imagine trying to get Brian up and going with the Dark Rising. As you know, he’s nearly impossible to wake in the morning with direct sunlight so this must be like trying to get a bear awake from hibernation. I have new appreciate for you if you have him leaping out of bed in the dark. As you said, it takes some adjusting, I’m sure. Again, loved today’s (tonight’s?) post.
    Mom Pierce


    • To give Brian his due, he has come a long way and now gets up all by himself. What a big boy 😉

      I’m hoping to do a post all about Danish Christmas traditions, so we’ll have to decide which to do while you’re here!


    • Thanks Mani! I maybe should have mentioned this in the post. I’ve thought briefly about getting one, especially for Brian in the mornings so he’s not so sad, sitting in the dark eating his breakfast. We finally saw a couple at the store the other day, and they are crazy expensive here! Like $300-$500 USD! The one you linked to is much more affordable. Maybe I’ll have to do some research and procure one. Thanks for the link!


  2. Hello all! I so love reading about your lives in a place I dream of living. Tho my 1st is Copenhagen. Scan Air stranded us @ Copenhagen airport past July, were I alone I think I would have just stayed. As I’m retired and living n NEW Orleans, LA once my grands sons complete elementary school I would love 2 b there. I think I will begin looking 4 apartment 2 rent some part of the year. AGAIN LUV YOUR POST!


  3. Pingback: short Norwegian days, long Norwegian nights | An American in Norway, a Citizen of the World

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