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WHAT CHANGES IN DENMARK

KEY POINTS: What changes about life in Denmark in December 2022?

The wait for a government could be over, reduced Christmas holidays and brighter days on the way: here are some key things to look out for this December in Denmark.

KEY POINTS: What changes about life in Denmark in December 2022?
Christmas decorations at Tivoli in Copenhagen. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

A new government could take over

Since the election on November 1st, the leader of the largest party, the Social Democrats, acting Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has been locked in negotiations with other parties to form a new government.

Frederiksen intends to form a coalition across the centre with parties from traditionally-opposed ‘blue bloc’ or conservative parties. She said before the election that she would pursue such a government and stuck to her stance after the left-leaning ‘red bloc’ took a one-seat majority in the election.

READ ALSO: Could a centrist government change Danish asylum plan?

Talks have become protracted, but there has been some forward movement. The number of parties involved in the negotiations has been whittled down from 12 to 7 with the most likely blue bloc partner in a coalition, the Liberals (Venstre), seeming to soften its stance on governing with Frederiksen’s Social Democrats.

Putting a government in place will enable legislation to be passed in parliament again – crucial for pressing matters like passing a 2023 budget and resolving cash help for low-income families.

Britons who have been told to leave Denmark because they were late applicants for post-Brexit residency permits will hope that a new government will step in and assist them. The government has the authority to intervene in decisions made by authorities but currently will not, because it is in a caretaker role.

You can read about this particular issue, which affects Britons whose residency in Denmark was protected under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, in this article.

Christmas is coming… but with a little less glimmer

The first Sunday in Advent has already passed, falling on November 27th this year. That means Copenhagen’s Christmas are already switched on, albeit two weeks later than in 2021. Due to the energy crisis, the lights will be switched on between 3pm and 9pm rather than the usual 7am until midnight.

READ ALSO: Copenhagen to retain but reduce Christmas lights amid energy crisis

In Aarhus, the Christmas lights have been on since November 11th but the lights are only switched on for seven hours a day, compared to 16 hours in previous years.

Odense’s lights have been on since 19th November, also for fewer hours than usual.

Salling Group’s shopping centres in Aalborg and Aarhus will not be putting up their usual Christmas light decorations, and the same decision has been made by Hotel d’Angleterre in Copenhagen.

Middelfart, Esbjerg, Aarhus and other cities have decided against opening their traditional outdoor ice rinks this winter as a result of high energy prices.

Christmas markets (julemarkeder), complete with the winter-warm alcoholic drink gløgg, will all be going ahead after some Covid-related cancellations in the last two years. Many open at the end of November. Tivoli’s Christmas season is already underway.

When do I get time off work or school for Christmas?

December 25th (Christmas), December 26th (Boxing Day) and January 1st (New Year’s Day) are all public holidays. They all fell on Saturday or Sunday in 2021, denying three extra festive days off which might otherwise have been enjoyed. No substitute day is given when public holidays fall on a weekend.

The Christmas Day and New Year holidays again fall during weekends this year, though Boxing Day is a Monday, so one public holiday has been regained compared to last year.

December 24th (Christmas Eve) and December 31st (New Year’s Eve) are not public holidays, but many employers treat them as such. Unfortunately, these are Saturdays in 2022, so will not be an ‘extra’ day off for most people.

State schools (folkeskoler) generally finish for the Christmas holidays on Wednesday December 21st (so the first day of the holidays is Thursday 22nd) and return on January 3rd.

Private schools may have slightly different dates and there may also be local variations for state schools, so check with your school or local municipality if in doubt. Here’s the calendar for Copenhagen Municipality.

Be sure to send presents on time

If you are sending cards or presents to loved ones abroad or in Denmark, remember to get them packaged and sent on time so Santa can deliver them before Christmas.

Generally, the deadline for sending parcels is December 21st for delivery in Denmark, December 16th for Europe and December 2nd for the rest of the world.

You can check the details in this article.

Brighter days are on the way

It’s now dark well into the morning and only light until mid-afternoon, but the shortest day of the year falls in December. After that, days will slowly get longer again and nights shorter.

The winter solstice, when the Earth tilts the furthest away from the Sun on its axis, occurs on December 21st.

Denmark’s dark winters aren’t as severe as in Scandinavian neighbours Sweden and Norway, which both experience polar nights – when the sun doesn’t rise at all for several weeks.

READ ALSO: Brighter days are on the way in Denmark after winter solstice

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For members

WHAT CHANGES IN DENMARK

KEY POINTS: What changes about life in Denmark in February 2023?

Keep saving on gas use, a reminder to check your tax payments, movement on plans to scrap a public holiday, Fastelavn celebrations, Copenhagen Fashion Week and lighter days incoming. Here are some of the things to look out for in Denmark this February.

KEY POINTS: What changes about life in Denmark in February 2023?

Keep saving on gas

Denmark has cut the majority of its consumption of Russian gas but it is too early to disregard all energy saving measures, experts have advised.

“We’ve been good at cutting back. But if we stop saving now, we’ll run into problems next year,” Trine Villumsen Berling of the Danish Institute for International Studies told DR.

Much of the gas currently stored was originally supplied by Russia. Power plants still need to use gas to produce energy when weather conditions reduce wind output, Berling said.

“We need Danes to still have those good habits. We must remain aware of how we use energy and how much we turn on the heating for quite a while yet,” she said.

Check your tax payments

In January, the Tax Authority advised all taxpayers to check their preliminary returns (forskudsopgørelse), especially if there were changes to their circumstances in 2022. This can ensure you don’t have to pay a tax deficit when 2023’s tax returns are finalised next year.

The advice is still relevant in February (it’s still early in the year)) and you can read more information about it in our explainer.

The preliminary tax return can be viewed (and information corrected) by visiting the Skat (tax authority) website and signing in with MitID. The agency can also be contacted over the phone or in writing for guidance on the return and other tax matters.

The annual tax return statement (årsopgørelse) for 2022 will meanwhile be ready on the Skat website on March 13th. Here you can see whether you are due money back or paid too little in tax last year. The deadline for correcting the annual statement is May 1st.

READ MORE: Denmark’s tax authority to release annual returns on March 13th

Plans on abolishing public holiday move forward

The formal bill to scrap the Great Prayer Day public holiday, which is now in consultation, could be passed by the end of February but is facing significant resistance.

It’s at the first stage of the process before it becomes law and a speedy process means there is less time in which objections can be brought up against it in parliament.

The government’s ambition is to pass the law before collective bargaining agreements are voted on by trade unions in the spring. Negotiations for these have already begun with employer organisations in some sectors.

The three governing parties – the Social Democrats, Liberals (Venstre) and Moderates – want to abolish springtime public holiday Great Prayer Day from 2024, in a move they say will enable increased defence spending to meet Nato targets by 2030, three years ahead of the current schedule.

The policy has met with criticism from trade unionsthe church and opposition parties, while the military has also distanced itself from the plan.

Fastelavn

Fastelavn is celebrated in Denmark every year on the Sunday before Shrove Tuesday, which this year is February 19th. Nurseries, kindergartens and schools may also celebrate the day in the week leading up to it and it adds some excitement to what can feel like a boring winter month. 

Some call it a Nordic Halloween. Children dress up, but unlike Halloween, they don’t have to be scary – any costume goes, so parents can raid the dressing up box for whatever they can find.

Once dressed up, the children form an orderly queue and take it in turns to hit a large barrel. It’s similar to piñata, but is called slå katten af tønden, which means hit the cat out of the barrel. It comes from a very old tradition when a poor cat would be placed in the barrel and the barrel hit with a stick until the cat escaped. The cat was then chased out of the town, with the idea it was taking bad luck away with it. 

Instead of a cat escaping, sweets now fall out of the barrel. The child who successfully frees the sweets, is named the Queen of Cats (Kattedronning). The child who takes down the last piece of barrel, is named King of cats (Kattekongen).

After barrel-hitting is complete, some children then go around their neighbours knocking on doors for sweets or money, or some people hold a little party.

Fastelavn also involves fastelavnsboller. These are sweet rolls covered in icing and filled with cream – there are many variations so try all you can. 

There’s also a Fastelavn song, that is guaranteed to stick in your head.

READ MORE: Fastelavn: What is the Danish childrens’ carnival all about?

Copenhagen Fashion Week

If you live in the capital, you may have already noticed the increased buzz around the centre. Copenhagen Fashion Week started on January 31st and runs until February 3rd. The biannual event attracts thousands of people to Copenhagen, as fashion is celebrated with exhibitions, street parties, mini-concerts and catwalk shows.

Lighter days are coming

February is still very much the depth of winter in Denmark but the days are slowly getting longer. The sun is now rising just after 8am and setting just before 5pm.

Nights remain longer than days until the spring equinox or jævndøgn in Danish, which occurs on March 20th this year.

Denmark’s dark winters aren’t as severe as in Sweden and Norway, which both experience polar nights – when the sun doesn’t rise at all for several weeks.

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