Denmark’s new government slammed over plan to scrap public holiday

Plans by the new Danish government to scrap the Great Prayer Day (Store Bededag) public holiday have received criticism from opposition political parties and priests.

Denmark’s new government slammed over plan to scrap public holiday
Danish teenagers attend their confirmations back in 2017. The country's association for priests says scrapping the Great Prayer Day holiday could ruin plans for the tradition in upcoming years. Photo: Jens Nørgaard Larsen/Ritzau Scanpix

In a decision which seems unlikely to be popular amongst the general public, the new government proposes removing a public holiday from the national calendar as part of its policy agreement, which was presented on Wednesday.

The holiday, Great Prayer Day (Store Bededag) has existed since the 1600s and falls on the fourth Sunday after Easter, giving everyone who works in Denmark an additional long spring weekend.

It is also the weekend on which many young Danes attend their traditional confirmation ceremonies.

The new government says it wants to use money saved by scrapping the holiday to increase spending on defence.

READ ALSO: Store Bededag: Why does Denmark have annual ‘Prayer Day’ holiday?

The announcement has elicited what is possibly the first instance of far left- and right-wing parties both opposing a policy of the centrist coalition.

The leader of the far-right Nye Borgerlige party, Pernille Vermund, threatened to use a clause in the Danish Constitution to activate a referendum over the issue.

In a tweet, Vermund wrote that her party would use the Constitution if “the government wants to abolish Great Prayer Day, which for many of us Danes is associated with important traditions”.

Mai Villadsen, the lead political spokesperson from Denmark’s most left-wing party, Red Green Alliance (Enhedslisten), called the decision “really odd”.

“So normal, hard-working Danes must pay with their well-earned holiday so that those who have the most can get top bracket tax cuts and company tax cuts,” Villadsen tweeted in regard to the proposal before it was officially announced.

By abolishing the holiday, the new government is neglecting the needs of the Church of Denmark and young people who attend their confirmation ceremonies around the time of Great Prayer Day, the Danish Association of Priests (Præsteforeningen) said in comments to news wire Ritzau. 

“It’s a big day for confirmations – and will be in 2024 and 2025 because it’s planned a year in advance. There are a lot of priests who will have to restructure their plans,” the association’s chairperson Pernille Vigsø Bagge told Ritzau.

“People book restaurants, catering companies, tents and equipment up to five years in advance,” she said.

READ ALSO: Denmark’s tradition of confirmations explained

Member comments

  1. The funny thing is Storebededag was made to because of the removal of a lot of public holidays, almost all of the religious holidays where combined into one great prayer day, so instead of having a lot of short days or days off it was all replaced by one big day off. if anything they should remove some other day and combine it with storebededag, maybe one of the Easter holidays. (although in my opinion nothing should be scrapped just if something has to it could be that one day before the rest in Easter.

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Denmark’s defence minister takes sick leave following illness

Denmark’s Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen is to take sick leave for an undetermined period, two months after leading the Liberal (Venstre) party into coalition government.

Denmark’s defence minister takes sick leave following illness

The 49-year-old was admitted briefly to hospital last week for “nausea”, just after returning from Ukraine.

“I was eager to go back to work immediately. But now that it’s been a few days I have to realise I’m not ready for this,” he said on Facebook.  “I have been unusually busy for a long time. Now my body is sending me a signal that it’s time to take a break, if not it’s going to end badly,” he said.

“The bottom line is that, on the advice of my doctor, I need to unplug for a while and take leave. And then I will return when I’m ready.”

Economy Minister Troels Lund Poulsen will fill in for Ellemann-Jensen during his absence, the government said.

His absence comes as Danes protest against government plans to abolish a public holiday, Great Prayer Day. The government says the plan will help fund the defence budget.

Ellemann-Jensen has led the Liberal party since late 2019. The party is traditionally the second largest in the Danish parliament and senior member of the ‘blue bloc’ alliance of conservative parties.

It suffered a poor result in the 2022 election with its 13 percent share of the vote representing 10 points less than its vote share in 2019. Ellemann-Jensen subsequently took the party into coalition government with two other parties including erstwhile rivals the Social Democrats.

READ ALSO: Denmark’s Social Democrats in worst opinion poll since 2015