When a holiday is maybe not a holiday
Having the day off work today to celebrate the constitution on Grundlovsdag every June 5 is a hit or miss proposition. While the trains are on a holiday schedule and many shops are closed, many were off to work or school as usual this morning.
A couple of teenage girls headed to Copenhagen International School on the S train pronounced it “stupid” that they had to go in.
“The Danish schools are all closed,” 15-year-old Nikki, from Pennsylvania, said. “It is a wasted day.”
Her friend, a Dane who preferred not to give her name, said.
“I have to go to Danish class, then physical education, and then I am going home.”
There are no hard and fast rules guaranteeing a day off on Constitution Day. Employers in both the public and private sector can decide on their own if they want to give workers the day off.
Shops with a turnover exceeding 32.2 million kroner a year must shut at 3pm under the closing laws, but unions say that there is nothing in the way the law is written that guarantees that idle workers will be paid.
In the past, Constitution Day was a legal public holiday. It later became a half day off, with workers free at noon, until even that was cut during labour negotiations in 1975.
As is often the case, the annual celebration of the constitution has led some critics to wonder if the 164-year-old document is perhaps getting a bit long in the tooth.
Although the constitution has been revised five times, the last time being in 1953, two thirds of the document remains as originally written in 1849. Critics argue that much of the content is outdated and unrepresentative of today’s Denmark.
Among the complaints are that the constitution contains obsolete language and that it does not effectively address issues such as human rights and voting rights for Danes living abroad.
Any changes would be difficult to make as they would require a 40 percent majority from everyone entitled to vote, and Danes are notoriously reluctant when it comes to constitutional change.
Even the day itself comes in for a bit of slagging.
The day is traditionally marked by politicians making speeches under open skies. However, Kristian Madsen, an editor at Politiken newspaper, wrote in an editorial that Constitution Day was “the saddest” of all Danish political anniversaries because it encouraged even the best orators to drag out their emptiest platitudes and trite phrases in praise of the weathered document.