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Danish traditions For Members

How Danes are defying government to mark scrapped holiday Great Prayer Day

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
How Danes are defying government to mark scrapped holiday Great Prayer Day
A large batch of Great Prayer Day 'hveder' about to be baked in 2023. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

A significant number of schools and businesses in Denmark have closed for Great Prayer Day, which is no longer a national holiday after the government changed the law last year.

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Even though Great Prayer Day is no longer a public holiday it is still being observed in various ways across Denmark.

The government last year passed a bill to abolish Great Prayer Day in a controversial move which was opposed by large sections of parliament and the public.

On what would have been the 2024 Great Prayer Day Holiday, a sizeable number of businesses around the country have decided to give their employees a paid day off, media including DR and Avisen Danmark report.

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“When the government decides to take something away from my employees, I want to  give it back, and I stand by that,” Paw Kristensen, owner of Kolding transport firm 3P Logistics, told Avisen Danmark.

Kristensen explained he had given half his staff the day off on Friday, while the remainder would be given a day off on a different date. The decision will reportedly cost the company around 100,000 kroner.

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A count by Radio4 meanwhile found that 11 of Denmark’s 98 municipalities have opted to close schools today.

An additional school day was not necessarily desirable because children must not attend school on more than 200 days during a year, according to Henrik Madsen, the head of schools in Furesø, one of the municipalities to close on Friday.

“If we’d given the students another school day on Great Prayer Day, they’d have had to have the day of at another time. And we concluded overall that the distribution of school days and non-school days that we already have was the best for the current school year,” he said to Radio4.

Great Prayer Day is well known for the custom of eating hvede – cardamom-infused wheat buns with a generous spreading of butter and sometimes jam. Traditionally, bakers were not allowed to work on the holiday, so they made the wheat buns on Thursday to be reheated the following day.

Bakeries were continuing to mass produce the buns on Friday, with around three million produce by the Kohlberg company according to TV Syd.

The owner of a bakery in western city Esbjerg told DR that hvede sales were up compared to last year.

“Last year we sold between 12,000 and 13,000 hveder. This year, we’ve turned it up to 17,000,” Mark Mikkelsen, head baker and director at the town’s Guldægget bakery said.

“I get the impression that people are a bit agitated about the holiday being taken away from them and the only thing they can hang on to is the hveder,” he said.

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