Bun in the oven: Government has timer set to abolish Store Bededag public holiday this afternoon

Majority in place to discontinue the post Easter mini-break from 2024 onwards

According to an Epinion survey carried out for DR, seven out of ten people in Denmark oppose the government’s plans to abolish the Store Bededag public holiday ahead of a bill being heard today, which a parliamentary majority is expected to approve.

Traditionally held on the fourth Friday following Good Friday, it is a spring holiday most of the public keenly look forward to – one of three that fill the gap between Easter and the summer break in July.

However, while it has been argued before that Denmark could benefit from moving one of the holidays to a slot later in the year, the government wants to scrap it altogether to improve productivity as part of its plans to spend more funds on defence. In total, the Finance Ministry claims it will raise 3 billion kroner for the state’s coffers.

Should it be approved, there will be no Store Bededag from 2024 onwards, ending a tradition that started in 1686 when a handful of prayer days were scooped together into one.

No gentleman’s agreement in place today
Often, when a bill with an obvious majority is voted on, it is agreed that a balanced proportion of MPs do not need to vote – a helpful provision should some have prior engagements. In this case, the government is taking an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to the Store Bededag abolishment in light of the fierce opposition voiced by both left and right-wing parties.

For example, the environment minister, Magnus Heunicke, has chosen to stay in Denmark and vote, instead of joining the business delegation in India headed by the Crown Prince Couple, which departed on Monday. 

Five parties in opposition – Enhedslisten, SF, the Danmarksdemokraterne, Dansk Folkeparti and Nye Borgerlige – have instructed all their MPs to vote. Konservative, Alternativet and Liberal Alliance also oppose the bill. 

However, over the weekend Radikale confirmed it would bolster the government coalition by lending its support to the bill.

Calendar gymnastics
Monika Rubin, the political spokesperson for Moderaterne, the junior partner in the government, has described the policy as one of “solidarity” as “it is not something that hits particular population groups harder than others”.

Liberal Alliance rejects the government’s reasoning.  “It is a question that must be decided between wage earners and employers,” claimed its financial spokesperson, Ole Birk Olesen, who describes the bill as an “assault on people’s right to negotiate working hours with their employer”.

“It is the structures in society that must be such that people want to work. It should not be the case that it is politicians who order people to work with calendar gymnastics,” he added.

Just 19 percent approve the government’s plans to abolish the holiday, while 11 percent do not have an opinion. In a session beginning at 13:00 today, MPs will have the final say.