For 40 years Christiania has been a fixture of Copenhagen cultural life. On September 26th 2011 Christiana had massive Birthday celebrations. Cake, music, and a spirit of revelry will take place under a warm, enveloping cloud of marijuana smoke. Alternative culture and bohemian pathos was celebrated by the approximately one thousand Christiania locals and the 20 or 30 thousand others looking for a good party. Forty years old, but hardly middle aged, Christiania has showcased an independent spirit that has made it a hallmark of Copenhagen.
Back in 1971, in the pursuit of some green space for their children to play, Danish hippies knocked down the fence on the corner of Prinsessegade and Refshalevel and went into the area that would become Christiana. Under the leadership and ideals of journalist and activist Jacob Ludvigsen the residents of Christiania formed a mission statement citing unaffordable housing as the reason that Christiana was needed. That moment began an immigration of all types of ‘new age thinker’ – art, culture, and a new society blossomed in this freed land.
Courting controversy Christiania began the open sale of Marijuana – fueling both the alternative culture and a spread of quality ganja across the city. In a Display of Denmark’s tolerance this sale was allowed largely unhindered until 2004 before sanctions were brought in to moderate it. Christiana’s liberal conceptualizations of property ownership, and by extension of that property tax, also led to tension between them and the authorities. This past year there were talks of Copenhagen actually selling the land Christiania sits on to developers. In the end this talk subsided when public pressure brought a resolution. Christiana is now in the process of purchasing their land and gaining legal legitimacy. In honour of this development the fortieth Birthday is sure to be that much more special and a party in celebration of both Christiania’s past and its future.
The parties themselves were wild. Usually Christiana has a few hundred people within the large military base that comprises it. On the week long 40th Birthday celebrations there were tens of thousands each night. The liberal vibe of Christiania prevailed each night as people purchased and smoked marijuana openly. The Birthday celebrations were really about the freedom of Copenhagen as a whole. Christiana only stands as the central mark of that freedom. Talks of closing Christiana are just that – talks. The people of the city of Copenhagen see it as to rich of an icon of their city and by extension their world view. Freedom is the norm in Christiana and maybe not to the same level, but in Copenhagen as well.