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Nordic FAQ - 2 of 7 - NORDEN
Section - 2.10 Nordic alcohol customs

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   There are a few facts which often tend to be forgotten when discussing
   the alcohol habits of North-Europeans.
   The maybe most important explanation for the Nordic behavior is the
   very long tradition of mead and beer drinking. At least since the
   stone age Germanians have left traces of brewing intoxicating
   beverages from grain. Wine was grown by Germans first at the time of
   Charlemagne, when the Nordics since long had established our own
   cultural identity, and still today it's almost impossible to grow wine
   in Scandinavia.
   Mead can however not be stored. Mead has to be prepared for each time
   there is a need for it, as at festivals, and then all of the mead has
   to be consumed or it will be wasted. The Nordic all-or-nothing
   attitude to alcohol has a plausible explanation in our historic and
   geographic conditions.
   Secondly beer and mead are made from grain, which otherwise would be
   used as food. Richness and power made it possible to afford brewing;
   poverty, failure of the crops and starving meant "no booze or you'll
   die!" To be able to serve ones guests a plenty of alcohol is a deeply
   rooted signal of richness, authority and good times worthy lords and
   The holiday behavior of Finns staggering off and on their ferries in
   Tallin, Sundsvall and Stockholm, and the Swedes reeling off and on the
   ferries in Helsingør, Fredrikshavn and Copenhagen, is nothing but the
   traditional way of celebration for a people not used to wine.
   Parallels are seen in the traditions on Ireland and in Scotland.
   Wine has become available and affordable outside of its traditional
   areas since only a few decades (no time at all compared to the
   millenniums the beer tradition has had to root in the culture) - let's
   see if we Northerners will learn to use alcohol in a wine-like manner
   before the good times have changed and we are back at the home brewed
   mead again. Other cultures have had long time to learn a suitable
   pattern for wine consumption: regularly but in dosages so small that
   one will be able to function as a human, as a parent and as a worker
   also the day after the consuming - and immediately as a witty
   companion and a good lover.

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   © Copyright 1994-98 by Antti Lahelma and Johan Olofsson.
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   where the most recent version of this document can be found.
  s-mail: Majeldsvägen 8a, 587 31  LINKÖPING, Sweden

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