(Stick with the video until they get through the introduction. It’s worth it to see the guy get covered in cinnamon.)
So it turns out that the piles of cinnamon we’ve been seeing around are the result of a Danish birthday tradition. If you reach the age of 25 and are still single, you get doused in handfuls of cinnamon. (Sometimes it’s much more than handfuls, as you will see if you watch the videos in the links below.)
If you turn 30 and are still single, you get covered in pepper. (Or maybe you’re just given some pepper in a pepper shaker, people disagree a little bit on how this ritual is enacted.)
This post on the Huffington Post travel blog claims that the birthday ritual dates back to the time of traveling spice salesmen, who often remained bachelors because they traveled so much. And it has a video of a guy getting sprayed with cinnamon from a fire extinguisher. His friends are just loving it.
Please go and read this post over at Hey You, AU! – the Aarhus University international students’ blog – for a full account of the tradition because it really is a hilarious retelling of what different crazy pepper related “gifts” you can expect on your 30th birthday. (For example, “Some will paint an old oil drum black to make it look like a pepper mill (peberkværn) and write various messages like “Haha! You’re old and alone in this world!”) It also has a really great video of a guy getting peppered with some kind of crazy peppering contraption that I assume his friends invented and engineered.
Ah you crazy crazy Danes.