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Danish Word of the Day: Helligdag

If you have the day off work today, spend five minutes of your free time learning this heavenly Danish word.

What is helligdag?

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.

READ ALSO: What public holidays does Denmark have in 2022?

Etymologically, the word is closely related to the English ‘holiday’. Hellig is the Danish word for “holy” (and dag is “day”).

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 Great Prayer Day holiday explains why there are no real traditions associated with it.

Why do I need to know helligdag?

If your 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.

This is particularly pertinent in the spring, when the Great Prayer Day, Ascension (Kristi Himmelfart) and Pentecost (Pinse) holidays all fall within weeks of each other.

There’s also an important distinction between a helligdag and a fridag (day off). Both refer to days on which you don’t have to work, but the latter is usually the result of a special arrangement rather than being a national public holiday.

You might, for example, be given May 1st (Labour Day), June 5th (Constitution Day or Grundlovsdag) or Christmas Eve off work, but this is probably because they are overenskomstmæssige fridage (“collective bargaining agreement-determined days off”): none of those days are public holidays.

Of course, people on employment contracts can also use ferie (“annual leave”) to take some time off work.


Maj er helt klart årets bedste måned. Der er to helligdage, hvor man kan nyde en forlænget weekend.

May is obviously the best month of the year. There are two public holidays when you can enjoy a long weekend.

1. maj er faktisk ikke en helligdag i Danmark. Men det gør ikke så meget, for der er to helligdage senere på måneden.

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.

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For members


Danish word of the day: Folk

This Danish word is a word for the people.

Danish word of the day: Folk

What is folk?

Folk simply means ‘people’, but it is used in a great number of ways, and in a great number of words. 

Folk or volk is the Germanic equivalent of the Latin populus, which is the origin of the English word people, the French peuple, the Spanish pueblo, and many more.

Folk is cognate with the English, Norwegian and Swedish folk, and the Icelandic fólk, the Dutch and German volk, as in Volkswagen, which means ‘the people’s car’ — usually called folkevogn (“people’s wagon”) in Danish.

Why do I need to know folk?

Being such an important word, you can find it used in many other words. 

Folkeregistrering is the process by which Danish residents are entered onto the Centrale Personregister (CPR). The purpose of the CPR is to be a register of basic information including name, date of birth and address, and the number under which you are registered is used as a form of identification in many public and private services. In short, life in Denmark doesn’t really work without one.

Folkekære, which means something like “dear to the people” is a term often used to describe veteran actors or celebrities who are popular with pretty much everyone — singer Kim Larsen or actor Ghita Nørby, for example.

Then there’s the use of the word in folkeparti, “people’s party”, used by three different political parties which traverse the ideological spectrum: Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People’s Party), Det Konservative Folkeparti (The Conservative Party) and Det Socialistiske Folkeparti (The Socialist People’s Party)-

Sometimes it just means a group of people, as in der er masser af folk på gaden – “There are a bunch of people out on the street.”

Sometimes it means ‘the people’: folket or det danske folk can be used to refer to the public in general.