General Prayer Day (Store Bededag) is observed on the fourth Friday after Easter in Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands, and this year, that falls on May 5. Introduced by Danish Emperor King Christian V in 1686, the celebration is the consolidation of several Roman Catholic holidays. The day honors the minor saints in the Spring and several other practices prevalent before the Reformation era. Bells are rung in every church, students take a stroll on their campuses, and various other rituals mark the celebration each year.
History of General Prayer Day
General Prayer Day (Store Bededag), on the fourth Friday after Easter, is a nationwide day of prayer and catholic service in Denmark. The day replaces several other penitential days observed by the state church of the country. The holiday was introduced in 1686 alongside three other religious holidays at the request of Bishop of Roskilde, Hans Bagger. The reduction of public holidays aimed to dial down the number of days the public was required to publicly pledge their time to the church. Before the reformation, there were 22 holy days in the year.
The General Prayer Day honors the traditions of Denmark. As a country that survived a complete overhaul of religious allegiance and survived the reformation period of the 18th century, the Danish people distinguish themselves from the natives of other Christian-majority countries.
General Prayer Day is one of the holiest days in Denmark. Inns and callers are required to cease the sale of alcohol past the eve of the celebration to ensure the sobriety of the entire country the next day. Observing Christians fast until the end of the religious service. On the eve of the celebration, church bells across the country are rung in unison. The streets of Denmark’s capital are filled with the locals dressed in the colors of spring, who take a stroll along Copenhagen’s famous Langelinie waterfront to honor the young lives lost in the 1659’s Assault on Copenhagen. The public celebration concludes shortly, and people head back to their homes to eat hot servings of varme hveder, a small square-sized wheat bun.
General Prayer Day timeline
The Christian court of Denmark-Noway and Holstein transitions from Catholicism to Lutheranism.
King Christian V ascends the throne of Denmark-Norway as the first anointed monarch and supreme ruler of the country.
King Christian V consolidates several local and minor Roman Catholic holidays and announces General Prayer Day (Store Bededad).
General Prayer Day survives the great holiday reform carried by the national church of Denmark-Noway.
General Prayer Day FAQs
Is Great Prayer Day a public holiday in Denmark?
Great Prayer Day, also known as General Prayer Day, is a nationwide public holiday in Denmark.
Is Denmark a Christian country?
The official religion of Denmark, as stated in its constitution, is Evangelical Lutheran, which is also the religion of 85% of its population. Only a fifth of the Danish population recognizes itself as “very religious.”
When is Store Bededag?
Store Bededag, also known as General Prayer Day or Great Prayer Day, is celebrated on the fourth Friday after Easter Sunday, falling usually between April 17 to May 21.
How to Observe General Prayer Day
General Prayer Day is one of the most important public holidays in Denmark. The day begins with a mass at the Church, as local leaders lead the prayer in cities and towns. Join the congregation in spirit with a morning at the church yourself.
Take a stroll in the park
The Danish people leave their homes as the sun sets to honor the lives lost in the Copenhagen attack of 1659. As a tribute to the fallen defenders of the capital, the people stretch their arms and breath in the fresh air, remembering those who paid — in blood — for the steep cost of Denmark’s freedom.
Bake varme hveder
Add a Danish twist to your evening supper with the famous bread of Denmark, varme hveder. Varme hveder is a soft wheat bread, customarily prepared at home as most shops were closed down to celebrate General Prayer Day.
5 Classic Danish Traditions Observed On General Prayer Day
Fasting till the sun shines
The Danish people usually observe a fast from the eve of the General Prayer Day.
The natives are encouraged to stay in the country and not indulge in foreign travels.
No games, no gamble
Gambling and other vanities are refrained by the general public.
Buy a bun day
The natives buy and eat cardamom-infused round buns (varme hveder) the day after the General Prayer Day to break their fast.
Don’t drink and celebrate
The public refrains from drinking after 6 p.m. to show up sober to the church.
Why General Prayer Day is Important
It recognizes old traditions
The consolidation of more than a dozen Christian observations and traditional Danish holidays into one celebration is a chance to recognize the importance of old traditions and the way it has helped Denmark in becoming the nation that it is today. The holiday is also a triumph of Christian conservatism and seeks to recognize the importance of obliging with traditions.
It brings generations together
There’s something to do for everyone on General Prayer Day. The older generations choose to spend time at the church, and the young people are requested to take a stroll outside to honor the faller civilians at the hand of the great Copenhagen attack. At the end of the day, families come together to feast on varme hveder and enjoy the public holiday.
It’s a promise of summer
General Prayer Day marks the conclusion of spring in Denmark. People finally toss their overalls aside and slip into something light for the rest of the season. While most Christian countries wrap up the festivities after Easter, the Danish people have something to look forward to with the celebration of General Prayer Day.
General Prayer Day dates