Denmark scraps General Prayer Day holiday to boost defence budget


Danes will no longer get a long weekend off for “Great Prayer Day” late in the spring starting next year, after lawmakers passed a bill on Tuesday scrapping it as a public holiday.

The move comes as Denmark’s newly formed government seeks to implement reforms aimed at improving the country’s welfare model, and as it tries to reach its NATO defense spending targets.

Lawmakers voted 95-68 to scrap the religious holiday observed since the 17th century.

The cancellation will provide an additional three billion kroner (£355m; $427m) to be used on the defence budget, the government says.

But there has been opposition from opposition politicians, trade unions and religious figures.

At the start of the month, some 50,000 protesters gathered outside parliament in Copenhagen to protest the plan. Opposition lawmakers call the bill “foolish,” “crazy” and “totally wrong”. However, there was not enough opposition to call a referendum.

Denmark’s government coalition said the extra money was needed to raise the defence budget to Nato’s target of 2% of GDP by 2030, instead of 2033 as previously planned.

This change of plan was due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the government said.

People in Denmark currently have up to 11 public holidays.

“I don’t think it’s a problem to have to work an extra day,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said in January.

“We are facing enormous expenditures for defence and security, health care, psychiatry and the green transition,” she added when presenting the government’s program to parliament.

“Great Prayer Day” is a Christian religious holiday that has been observed since the 17th century in Denmark.

The holiday falls on the fourth Friday after Easter and was initially created to consolidate several minor Christian holidays.