Danish Word of the Day: helligdag

Danish Word of the Day: helligdag
Photo: EikoTsuttiy/Depositphotos
Have the day off work today? Spend five minutes of your free time learning this heavenly Danish word.

Why do I need to know helligdag?

If your Danish boss tells you there’s a helligdag coming up soon, you’ll want to make sure you understand, or you might end up coming in to work when everyone else is enjoying the day off.

So what does it mean?

The most important thing to know is that helligdag means public holiday (and also bank holiday in British usage). Christmas, Easter, New Year’s Day and Great Prayer Day (Store Bededag) are all public holidays, when many are able to enjoy the day off work.

Etymologically, the word is closely related to the English ‘holiday’. Hellig is the Danish word for holy.

Incidentally, Great Prayer Day – which is celebrated in Denmark on the fourth Friday after Easter – originates from the 18th century, when it was introduced as an alternative to individually celebrating various minor saints during the spring (and thereby cutting the number of public holidays in a year). The Roman Catholic holidays had, up to that point, survived the Reformation in Denmark.

The historical background of the holiday explains why there are no real traditions associated with it.

How do I use it?

To explain any public or statutory holiday.

For example:

Maj er helt klart årets bedste måned. Der er jo to helligdage, hvor man kan lave præcis det, man har lyst til.
'May is clearly the best month of the year. There are two bank holidays which you can spend doing whatever you want.’

Nej, 1. maj er faktisk ikke en helligdag i Danmark. Men det gør ikke så meget, for der er to helligdage senere på måneden.
‘No, Labour Day is not actually a public holiday in Denmark. But it doesn’t really matter, as there are two bank holidays later in the month.’

READ ALSO: More Danish words of the day

Do you have any favourite or unusual Danish words you'd like to nominate as Word of the Day, or want us to explain? Let us know via email.

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