Single, 30, and Danish? Prepare to Get Peppered.

Cristen Conger

A safe-for-work pebermø pepper mill.
A safe-for-work pebermø pepper mill.
Courtesy: Ordgylle fra Outlaw

When it comes to 30th birthday traditions, Denmark takes the cake. Or rather, the pepper.

A Danish Stuff Mom Never Told You fan wrote in recently about the country's curious pebersvend (pepper man) and pebermø (pepper maid) rituals that take place when single folks turn 30. On their birthdays, unmarried 30-year-olds may wake up to find giant pepper mills made out of decorated oil drums in their yards. The oil drums are usually spray painted with the number 30 along with crude phrases reminding the birthday boys and girls that they're still single and possibly going to die alone (talk about a happy birthday!). Oh, and many of them feature a prominent phallus made out piping, in case the whole "you don't have a legal sex-partner-for-life!" message hasn't been hammered home sufficiently.

And on top of that, friends and family might also shower them with pepper.

From what I could gather from Google-translated Danish, the tradition comes out of the etymology of bachelor, which traces back to 16th-century unmarried traders who specialized in selling spices and pepper. Hence, the original literal meaning of bachelor in Denmark was pepper man, or pebersvend. Then in the 18th century, unmarried "pepper maids," or spinsters, got their spicy designation with pebermø.

More recently, a pre-pebersvend birthday tradition was established, perhaps because Danes didn't care to wait until people's 30th birthdays to dump piles of spices on their heads. Now, unmarried 25-year-olds are designated kanelsvend and kanelmø, or cinnamon men and cinnamon maids, and get cinnamon dumped on their heads. As in a lot of cinnamon:

Courtesy: Blogging Denmark

Getting stuff thrown at you based on your marital status doesn't stop when Danes get married, either. As is customary at many American weddings, wedding guests throw rice at newlyweds as they exit the festivities.

Related Stuff Mom Never Told You: Is there a female equivalent to a bachelor?