Blue butter cookie tins are a symbol of Denmark

Sarah Markmann
The Royal Dansk Butter Cookies hold a special place in the heart of a Danish girl, and Chinese people. But can you imagine Danish people also utilize blue tins for sewing supplies?
Sarah Markmann
Blue butter cookie tins are a symbol of Denmark
Rachel Yu / Ti Gong

Illustration by Rachel Yu

Royal Dansk butter cookies are a staple in many households, but not for the reason you may think. Upon returning to Shanghai after having been on vacation in Denmark, I offered my friend some cookies out of my Royal Dansk butter cookie tin. My friend's eyes widened; in a shocked tone, she responded, "Why are there cookies in a sewing kit?" This was when I realized that my friends were more used to seeing sewing supplies in their blue tins rather than the intended purpose which is to store butter cookies. After talking to my parents, they explained that Danish people also commonly utilize blue tins for sewing supplies.

I have come to learn that people in China use the blue tin to store other items as well, such as snacks, candies, nuts and sunflower seeds. The Royal Dansk butter cookies have been heavily advertised on TV in China. They are frequently marketed as a premium gift from Denmark and endorsed by royalty. In fact, "丹麦蓝罐曲奇,送礼体面过人" is the ending of all of their advertisements. The literal translation of this is "Danish Blue Tin Cookies, the most premium gift." Thus, this is the slogan that is closely associated with the butter cookies. They are often given to loved ones during special occasions such as Chinese New Year.

Through conversations I have had with numerous people, I have discovered that the first three things people affiliate with Denmark are the Royal Dansk butter cookies, the famous author Hans Christian Andersen and the Little Mermaid. During Danish festivals, there are cookie tins featuring Andersen's famous fairy tales.

Upon telling people I am from Denmark, seven times out of 10 their response will be, "Oh, you must eat a lot of those butter cookies." Although I do indulge in these cookies from time to time, it was not a staple in my household growing up. My grandma would even make her own butter cookies using our secret family recipe, passed down from generation to generation.

There are a couple of differences between the butter cookies you can buy in Denmark and in China. In Denmark, it is easier to find tins filled with a delicious assortment of cookies, not just the plain butter cookies. Growing up, my entire family (even my parents) would fight over who would get the chocolate-covered cookies.

Another difference is that in Denmark you have the option of a cheaper non-tinned version of butter cookies. However, people will usually opt for the tinned version because it ensures the quality of the cookies. When buying the tin, you don't have to worry about the freshness of the cookies or the possibility that they might break into pieces when transporting them.

The Royal Dansk Butter Cookies hold a special place in my heart, and luckily for me, they are available around the world. Whenever I see the classic blue tin, it always reminds me of Denmark. Growing up in China, it is comforting to find pieces of home away from home.

I invite you to scavenge through your house. Were you able to find a blue tin? If so, is it filled with sewing supplies, or are you one of the lucky ones that have butter cookies inside?

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