When do we have time off in Denmark?

March 22, 2024

You might have noticed it already? We have a lot of holidays in spring in Denmark. Some claim it is because the weather gets brighter and warmer. But that's nonsense. Do you want to know the real reasons why we have time off on certain days in Denmark? Then read on.

When most of Denmark closes down and takes time off, you might be unpleasantly surprised: shopping opportunities become fewer. And friends may have gone out of town to visit family.

Read on and get a handle on the holidays so you can be prepared. We'll start with the first holiday of the year:

New Year's Day

In Denmark, you can look forward to having the day off on New Year's Day (nytårsdag), which is 1 January. Although it counts as an official holiday, it is not a Christian holiday. It is just a day off. Of course, not all industries take time off on holidays. In the hotel and restaurant industry, for example, it is normal to work on holidays. But then employees usually receive a wage supplement for working while the rest of Denmark takes time off.

Easter: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday

Easter is a Christian holiday with four holidays in Denmark: Maundy Thursday (skærtorsdag), Good Friday (langfredag), Easter Sunday (påskedag) and Easter Monday (2. påskedag). Unfortunately, we can't tell you the dates. It is not the calendar year but rather the church year that determines when Easter is. Fortunately, you can easily find a list of dates for the various holidays including Easter - for example, here.

The fact that we have time off on Maundy Thursday in Denmark is a bit special. There are plenty of Christian countries where people work on Maundy Thursday. It is not entirely clear why we have time off on Maundy Thursday. The Danish newspaper Politiken tried to investigate the matter in 2001 by asking both religious experts and the Danish Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs. But the only answer they got was from a civil servant who wrote: "I don't know why Maundy Thursday is a holiday in Denmark, but it has been since the Church Ordinance of 1537."

Easter is the holiday when Christians remember that Jesus was crucified, died and rose again. However, the most widespread Danish traditions at Easter are not particularly religious: Some families have egg hunts where children have to find chocolate Easter eggs hidden by their parents in the garden. Spring branches are put in a vase and decorated with Easter eggs. And many have a classic Danish Easter lunch, somewhat similar to a Christmas lunch: both aquavit and herring sandwiches are served.

Some have the day off on 1 May

Next up is 1 May (1. maj), which is International Workers' Day. It is not a national holiday. But for some professional groups and some employment contracts, 1 May is a day off. This applies, for example, to the industrial, wood and construction sectors. There are also some workplaces that have chosen 1 May as a day off. If you want to experience political speeches and communal singing, just head out to the largest parks in the major Danish cities. In Copenhagen, you can especially experience 1 May in Fælledparken and Kongens Have.

Ascension Day

Ascension Day (Kristi himmelfartsdag) is 40 days after Easter and always a Thursday. Some choose to take a day off on Friday as well. It can turn into a little holiday.

Ascension Day marks, as the name suggests, that Jesus ascended to heaven 40 days after he was resurrected from the dead. However, very few in Denmark celebrate Ascension Day as a religious event.

And here's a little tip if you want to be good at writing Danish: Only Kristi himmelfartsdag is written with a capital letter. All the other holidays are written in lower case.

Whitsun: Whit Sunday, Whit Monday

Whitsun (pinse) is a Christian holiday with two official holidays in Denmark. Whitsun is 49 days after Easter and 10 days after Ascension Day. Pinsedag is Whit Sunday, followed by 2. pinsedag - Whit Monday. It marks the coming of the Holy Spirit and giving the disciples strength to spread Christianity. Therefore, Whitsun is also the church's birthday.

In Denmark, it is said that the 'Whitsun sun dances' (pinsesolen danser). The expression dates back to the mid-19th century when a new tradition emerged. It involved getting up at five in the morning to watch the sunrise or partying all night until the sun came up.

There are no longer any particularly widespread traditions associated with Whitsun in Denmark. That is, other than taking time off and being with family and friends.

Some have the day off on Constitution Day

On 5 June, 1849, Denmark got its first constitution, and thus ended the absolute monarchy, a form of government where the king had sovereign power in the country. Constitution Day (grundlovsdag) is not a national holiday. But some employers and employment contracts give employees a half or a full day off on 5 June. (By the way, it is the same day as Father's Day!) Just like on 1 May, you can experience political speeches on Constitution Day, for example, in Kongens Have and Fælledparken.


In Denmark, most families celebrate Christmas on the evening of 24 December. But it is not a national holiday, although most choose to take a day off. On the other hand, both Christmas Day (1. juledag) and Boxing Day (2. juledag) are holidays, and there is a tradition of meeting with family and friends and wishing each other a Merry Christmas. There are plenty of Danish Christmas traditions when it comes to customs, food and rituals. And you can read much more about it in Studieskolen's own Christmas blog.

Great Prayer Day was also a holiday

And now that we've gone through all the official Danish holidays, let us not forget to mention Great Prayer Day (store bededag). Great Prayer Day is a Christian holiday on the fourth Friday after Easter. It was a national holiday until 2023 when it was abolished by the Danish government. Great Prayer Day was originally used for fasting and prayer. Today it is celebrated by eating some crispy, warm buns - called varme hveder (hot wheat buns) the evening before.

There was heated debate in connection with the abolition of Great Prayer Day. But actually, it is not new that holidays can be abolished. The number of Danish holidays has been declining since the Reformation in 1536 when many Christian holidays ceased to be national holidays. There was an obvious coincidence of economic and religious interests: It had simply become too expensive to take time off all the days the church demanded before Denmark became Protestant.

In today's Denmark, we have more religions, and some have begun to ask why we still have national Christian holidays. Is it fair that people of other religions cannot automatically take time off on their holidays? Opinions are divided. But it is probably not the end of adjusting holidays in Denmark, whether the purpose is political, economic or religious.

Here you can read more about the Danish holidays (in Danish):

Overview of Danish holidays: Get a handle on the dates so you can plan

The Mystery of Danish Holidays, POLITIKEN

Knowledge about Christian holidays in Denmark