Danish and Canadian Holidays

New Year

January 1st

January 1st is a statutory holiday in both Denmark and Canada and a flag day in Denmark.

Epiphany

January 6th

We celebrate the visit of the Three Wise Men to infant Jesus. (Matthew 2:1–12.)

Kyndelmisse & Groundhog Day

February 2nd

The candles to be used on the alter the next year were dedicated at Kyndelmisse, or Candlemas, forty days after the birth of Christ when the Law of Moses stipulated that Mary was “clean” to attend the temple. Kyndelmisse was abolished in the Danish Church with the introduction of Store Bededag in 1686 and survives now only in Steen Steensen Blicher’s winter song, Det er hvidt herude,/kyndelmisse slår sin knude….

In North America, tradition has it that if the groundhog, a stout, cat-sized, ground-dwelling squirrel, sees his own shadow on Groundhog Day, then winter is soon over; otherwise we’re in for another six weeks of cold weather. If Candlemas be fair and bright,/ Come, Winter, have another flight;/ If Candlemas bring clouds and rain,/ Go, Winter, and come not again. However, here in Vancouver any semblance of winter after Groundhog Day is rare.

Crown Princess Mary

February 5th

H.R.H. Crown Princess Mary of Denmark is the wife of H.R.H. Crown Prince Frederik and her birthday is a flag day in Denmark.

Princess Marie

February 6th

H.R.H. Princess Marie of Denmark is the wife of H.R.H. Prince Joachim and her birthday is a flag day in Denmark.

St. Valentine’s Day

February 14th

We celebrate human love: children exchange “friendship cards” and your Canadian spouse may expect flowers or a present. This tradition seems to have nothing to do with any St. Valentine.

Family Day

Second Monday in February

Family Day was introduced as a statutory holiday in British Columbia in 2012.

National Flag of Canada Day

February 15th

The Maple Leaf was inaugurated as the Canadian national flag on February 15th, 1965. February 15th was named National Flag of Canada Day in 1996.

Fastelavn

The Sunday seven weeks before Easter

Fastelavn is part of the celebrations leading up to the season of Lent, the last 40 days before Easter. (Sundays are not included in the 40 days of Lent, so Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, the Wednesday after Fastelavn.) Very few Danes observe Lent but Fastelavn thrives as a costume- and piñata-party for children.

Besættelsen

April 9th

On April 9th, 1940, Nazi troops crossed the border into Denmark; the occupation lasted until May 5th, 1945. We honour the memory of the patriots who died and pray that Denmark always will be free. April 9th is a flag day (half mast till noon) in Denmark.

Maundy Thursday

The Thursday before Easter

We celebrate the institution of Holy Communion. (Matthew 26:17–30.) Maundy Thursday is a statutory holiday in Denmark.

Good Friday

The Friday before Easter

We commemorate the crucifixion of our Lord. (Matthew 27:31–56, Mark 15:20–39, Luke 23:26–49, John 19:17–37.) Good Friday is a statutory holiday in Canada and Denmark and a flag day (half mast) in Denmark.

Easter

The first Sunday after the first new moon after spring equinox

We celebrate the resurrection of our Lord on the third day after His crucifixion. (Matthew 28:1–8, Mark 16:1–8.) Easter Sunday is a statutory holiday and a flag day in Denmark.

Actually, the date of Easter does not follow astronomical events but rather a formula set in 325 A.D. by the First Council of Nicæa. The web site of the U.S. Naval Observatory explains both the formula and its history.

Easter Monday

The Monday after Easter

We continue celebrating the resurrection of our Lord. Easter Monday is a statutory holiday in Denmark but one of the few days that are explicitly not statutory holidays in British Columbia.

Queen Margrethe

April 16th

H.M. the Queen’s birthday, Denmark’s National Day, is a flag day (but no longer a statutory holiday) in Denmark.

Princess Isabella

April 21st

H.R.H. Princess Isabella of Denmark is the second child of T.R.H. Crown Princess Mary and Crown Prince Frederik.

Princess Benedikte

April 29th

H.R.H. Princess Benedikte of Denmark is a sister of H.M. Queen Margrethe, and her birthday is a flag day in Denmark.

The youngest sister, H.M. Queen Anne-Marie of Greece, was born on August 30th but her birthday is not a flag day—presumably because she resigned her claim on the Danish throne when she married H.M. King Konstantin II of Greece.

Befrielsen

May 5th

We celebrate the liberation of Denmark on May 5th, 1945, after the Second World War. May 5th is a flag day in Denmark.

Mother’s Day

The 2nd Sunday in May

We celebrate our mothers. Many mothers wear carnations on Mother’s Day; some observe the distinction that mothers whose mothers are alive wear red carnations while mothers whose mothers have passed away wear white carnations.

Store Bededag

The 4th Friday after Easter

Store Bededag, Common Prayer Day, was introduced in the Danish Church in 1686 by H.M. King Christian V on the advice of Bishop Hans Bagger of Roskilde as a consolidation of several minor (or local) holidays that had survived since the Reformation. In 1770, H.M. King Christian VII cancelled a host of other minor holidays on the advice of his de facto regent, Count Johann Friedrich Struensee, but Store Bededag survived and is still a statutory holiday in Denmark.

Victoria Day

The last Monday before (but not on) May 25th

We celebrate the Canadian Monarchy. H.M. Queen Victoria was born on May 24th, 1819; her birthday has been officially celebrated in Canada since 1845. Since 1953, Victoria Day has been appointed as the Queen’s birthday in Canada though H.M. Queen Elizabeth’s natural birthday is April 21st. Victoria Day is a statutory holiday in Canada.

Crown Prince Frederik

May 26th

H.R.H. Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark is the oldest son of H.M. Queen Margrethe, and his birthday is a flag day in Denmark.

Ascension Day

The 6th Thursday after Easter

We celebrate Jesus being taken to Heaven 40 days after His resurrection. (Acts 1:1–11.) Ascension Day is a statutory holiday and flag day in Denmark.

Grundlovsdag

June 5th

We celebrate the anniversary of the Danish constitution.

The first democratic Danish constitution was given by H.M. King Frederik VII on June 5th, 1849. In November of 1863 the constitution was amended to include the Duchy of Schleswig on the Danish–German border. This led to war with Germany; Denmark lost the war and the entire duchy, and the constitution was amended again in 1866 to reflect the new state of affairs. This and all later amendments have been made on June 5th.

In 1920 the northern part of Schleswig voted itself back to Denmark.

Grundlovsdag is a flag day (but no longer a statutory holiday) in Denmark.

Prince Joachim

June 7th

H.R.H. Prince Joachim of Denmark is the second son of H.M. Queen Margrethe, and his birthday is a flag day in Denmark.

Pentecost

The seventh Sunday after Easter

We celebrate the Holy Spirit coming to the disciples. (Acts 2:1–11.) Pentecost is a statutory holiday and flag day in Denmark,

Whitmonday

The Monday after Pentecost

We continue celebrating the Holy Spirit coming to the disciples. Whitmonday is a statutory holiday in Denmark but one of the few days that are explicitly not statutory holidays in British Columbia.

Prince Henrik

June 11th

H.R.H. Prince Henrik of Denmark is the husband of H.M. Queen Margrethe, and his birthday is a flag day in Denmark.

Valdemarsdag & Genforeningsdag

June 15th

We celebrate the reign of H.M. King Valdemar II, the Conqueror, and the reunification of North Schleswig with Denmark. Valdemarsdag & Genforeningsdag is a flag day in Denmark.

Valdemarsdag

H.M. King Valdemar II’s father, H.M. King Valdemar I, the Great, took sole possession of the Danish throne in 1157 ending more than 25 years of civil wars caused by strife over the succession. Together with his foster brother, Bishop (later Archbishop) Absalon, he defeated the Slavic Wends at Rügen on June 15th, 1168; the Wends who had been a threat to Danish merchant ships since viking times were converted to Christianity and King Valdemar I extended his realm.

When King Valdemar II succeeded his childless brother, H.M. King Knud VI, he engaged in a series of crusades converting the heathen peoples on the Baltic coast and extending his sphere of influence. Thus, on June 15th 1219, King Valdemar II was fighting the Estonians near Tallin. The battle was not going well for the crusaders, doom was imminent. Then a cloth, red with a white cross, descended from heaven; the crusaders regained their courage and won the battle against all odds. The red cloth with a white cross, Dannebrog, has been Denmark’s national flag ever since, making it the oldest national standard in the world.

Genforeningsdag

Denmark lost the Duchy of Schleswig to Germany in the war of 1864. Then came the First World War: Denmark remained neutral and Germany lost. A plebiscite was held in Schleswig to determine the Danish–German border. H.M. King Christian X felt that the city of Flensborg should fall to Denmark despite the plebiscite; the prime minister disagreed. The King fired the cabinet, and the Social Democrats, who had supported the government, organised massive strikes and demonstrations: the Easter Crisis of 1920. Nobody wanted a Russian style revolution, so a compromise was found: a transitional government was installed for the purpose of calling a general election to the parliament. On June 15th, 1920, King Christian X rode across the old border into North Schleswig, now reunited with Denmark—without Flensborg.

Father’s Day

The 3rd Sunday in June

We celebrate our fathers.

Sankthansaften

June 23rd

We celebrate midsummer on the eve of St. John the Baptist’s Day. The Danish celebrations, which involve a bonfire with a witch puppet on top, undoubtedly have roots far back in heathen times.

Canada Day

July 1st

Canada received political autonomy from Britain on July 1st 1867 which is therefore celebrated as Canada’s birthday. Canada Day is a statutory holiday in Canada.

B.C. Day

The first Monday in August

B.C.. Day is a statutory holiday in British Columbia and several other Canadian provinces—though under different names.

Labour Day

The first Monday in September

Labour day is a statutory holiday in Canada.

Danish Soldiers Stationed Abroad

September 5th

We honour Danish soldiers stationed abroad and remember those who died. September 5th is a flag day in Denmark.

Thanksgiving

The second Monday in October

We give God thanks for the harvest and all other blessings throughout the year. To celebrate and give thanks for the harvest is an ancient tradition. The North American incarnation of this holiday goes back to the very first European settlers in North America:

The Mayflower, the ship carrying the first British and Dutch settlers to America, landed near what is now Plymouth in Massachusetts on the northeastern coast of the United States on December 26th, 1620. The following fall, the surviving settlers celebrated their first harvest. The feast of Thanksgiving has been a tradition ever since.

Thus, Thanksgiving is as American as apple pie, and in terms of gathering the family around one table probably the most important holiday of the American peoples. Thanksgiving has been a statutory holiday in Canada since 1879.

Prince Christian

October 15th

H.R.H. Prince Christian of Denmark is the first child of T.R.H. Crown Princess Mary and Crown Prince Frederik.

Efterårsferie

The week of the third Tuesday in October

Most Danish educational institutions place their Fall Break in the week of the third Tuesday in October.

Halloween

October 31st

All Hallow’s Eve, Halloween, is the eve before All Saints’ Day, November 1st. As All Saints’ Day (or All Saints’ Sunday, the first Sunday in November) is a day of remembering and honouring those who have passed on, Halloween is a celebration to ward off death and darkness. Children dressed up as witches, ghosts, and monsters walk their neighbourhood trick-or-treating—expecting candy or other goodies. If you do not want to participate, leave your front porch lights off.

Mortensaften

November 10th

Mortensaften is the eve of St. Martin’s Day, November 11th. Legend has it that when Martin was to be appointed bishop of Tours, he did not want the assignment and tried to hide himself among a flock of geese who with their noise revealed his presence. Danes therefore often have goose (or duck) for dinner Mortensaften.

Remembrance Day

November 11th

We honour those who died in wars. Many Canadians wear a poppy-ornament the days up to Remembrance Day to show their respects. The poppies are probably inspired by the Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae’s poem In Flanders fields the poppies blow/ Between the crosses, row on row,/…. The armistice documents after World War I were signed on November 11th, 1918. Remembrance Day is a statutory holiday in Canada.

Christmas Eve

December 24th

Most Danes begin the Christmas celebrations by exchanging presents on Christmas Eve which is a statutory holiday in Denmark.

Christmas

December 25th

We celebrate the birth of our Lord. (Luke 2:1–14.) Christmas day is a statutory holiday in Canada and Denmark and a flag day in Denmark.

St. Steven’s Day

December 26th

We continue celebrating Christmas more than we commemorate St. Steven who was the first Christian martyr. (Acts 6:8–14, 7:54–60.) St. Steven’s Day, which is also known as Boxing Day, is a statutory holiday in Denmark but one of the few days that are explicitly not statutory holidays in British Columbia.


Flag Days

 

Canadians and Danes use their flags differently. Canadian institutions, some businesses, and a few homes fly the Maple Leaf round the clock every day. In Denmark having a flagpole in the yard is very common, and people fly Dannebrog to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. Government institutions fly their flags on Flag Days to celebrate or commemorate the events listed above.

Week Numbers

 

Danish calendars number the weeks. In Denmark the week begins on Monday and ends on Sunday. The week containing the first Thursday of the year is week one.

Daylight Savings Time

 

Summer time begins on the last Sunday of March in Denmark and on the first Sunday of April in British Columbia (and most other Canadian provinces). Summer time ends on the last Sunday of October in both Denmark and British Columbia.