The Danish Holidays May Throw You For a Loop

Why the flag? Because in Denmark every holiday of every kind is celebrated by decorating with and flying the Danish flag. Go Dannebrog!

Why the flag? Because in Denmark every holiday of every kind is celebrated by decorating with and flying the Danish flag. Go Dannebrog!

So, speaking of Sankhans aka midsummer aka a holiday I’ve never heard of before coming to Denmark…

OK, OK, I’ve heard of midsummer. I’m not an animal. And I do read a lot of fantasy novels. But I’d never heard of the tie in with St. John the Baptist. (Leave it to those Catholics to so blatantly hijack a pagan holiday.) Nor have I heard of the Burn all the Witches! tradition. I thought midsummer was all about picking herbs to get them at their most magically potent and dancing around poles with flowers and jumping over fires for guaranteed fertility in the coming year. Not sending witches back to Germany… (hehe, that still cracks me up, every time.)

Yeah, so speaking of crazy holidays, I wrote another post over at Panorama about adjusting to the Danish holidays. Because they can take some getting used to at first, especially if you’re from the US.

Why? I’ll give you a hint: it’s because they’re all based on religious holidays, which will really blow your mind if you’re used to separation of church and state. (Or, my mind is just easily blown – which Brian tells me is the truth – and no one else but me really cares about this.)

BUT there’s something else about their holidays that really could blow your mind: they’re all in the spring. Literally, all of them except for Christmas. There are no holidays between June and December. What’s up with that?! I miss all my fall holidays!

So go read and enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚


5 thoughts on “The Danish Holidays May Throw You For a Loop

  1. Glad it is not just me that the Danish holidays throw for a loop…And I come from a Catholic country! But all of them being religious…when the Danes tend to be anything but…AND in Spring just baffles me. Spread them out guys! It doesn’t help that the spring holidays also come at the start of the ‘work holiday year’, so not when you really want them. My solution would be to ADD holidays throughout the rest of the year though ๐Ÿ˜‰


    • Agreed! I forgot to say in the post that there is this dissonance because the holidays are so religious but the celebrations are anything but. They mostly seem to be based on the pre-Catholic traditions. Not that I’m not used to the secularization of holidays (ahem, Christmas, ahem), but I guess I’ve just never had so many before. I think they don’t much care about holidays after spring, though, because everyone gets 3 weeks of vacation in the summer, so after that you’re probably good till Christmas ๐Ÿ˜‰


  2. Hi Allison

    I’m a Danish reader who came across your blog some time ago, and I’m really enjoying reading your posts and your take on cultural differences. I spent a year in college in Georgia back in 1990/91, and I can relate to some of your observations, just in reverse. Also, I live in Aarhus, so I enjoy learning how others see my hometown.

    As for the Danish holidays, I just want to say that many Danes are not so happy about the no-days-off-between-June-and-December thing, either. I guess we’re used to it, though. Plus, people with kids in school will take week 42 off because the schools are closed, so that helps. (Week numbers is another difference, I guess…). That’s 5 days out of our 30 paid vacation days, just to rub it in ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Every spring I think about public holidays being religious holidays, the origin of which I often can’t even explain properly to my 7 year old daughter. Personally, I would prefer separation of church and state, which would then be bound to have an effect on the public holidays – but would I give up all of my nice spring holidays?? Nah… ๐Ÿ˜‰ Double standards, I know. On the other hand, I think about our many days off – vacation plus public holidays – when politicians discuss efficiency and productivity and how Denmark lags behind other countries. Perhaps there is a link…

    Anyway, really just wanted to comment for once. Keep your post coming; I thoroughly enjoy them! Have a great summer and enjoy your time here.



    • Hi Anne. Thanks so much for commenting! I’m glad that you’re enjoying my blog. I love getting comments from Danes because you guys add so much to my observations, often correcting me and setting me straight ๐Ÿ˜‰ This whole blog thing is based purely on my own experiences, and those can be rather narrow, so I really love input from people like you.

      It’s good to know that it’s not just us foreigners that long for some fall holidays. But I know what you mean about not wanting to “stir the pot” with the spring holidays and ask for a different layout because you want all those lovely holidays! ๐Ÿ™‚ Aaaand, I think it does help that you get three weeks off in late summer. That eases the pain a little bit ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I think what the US did was just came up with other non-religious occasions to have holidays (some of which don’t have the best history, ie Christopher Columbus Day and Thanksgiving), which allowed them to put the holidays whenever they wanted. So there’s a bit more equal distribution. But even with separation of church and state, we still have Christmas, so there’s no explaining that.

      I do love that Danish holidays are technically based on Christian holidays but that many of the celebrations have nothing to do with religion, coming instead from older traditions. It’s like the Danes were like, yeah we’ll use this as an excuse to have a holiday, but we’re still sticking to our old ways, no matter what you say, Church ๐Ÿ™‚


      • Hi again. Thanks for replying!
        The US approach makes a lot of sense, but I doubt that it will happen here any time soon. You’re right about the traditions and celebrations, but I think people tend to forget that when they argue that it is important to keep the religious holidays.


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