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Traditions in Denmark

Traditions, customs, and significant days throughout the year.

Traditions in Denmark

Many traditions, several customs, and countless little rituals and unwritten rules - religious or non-religious - to familiarize yourself with when living in Denmark. If you're observing a national or local celebration of some sort, you might be able to find information about it on this page. If you can't find it, you're welcome to reach out and ask us. 






[English: Shrovetide] Fastelavn is always on the Sunday exactly seven weeks before Easter Sunday and is considered a family tradition primarily for younger children. On this day, children dress up in costumes and traditionally, they walk door to door while they sing and gather treats or money. 


The day is celebrated in the schools and churches around the country. Much like the Spanish tradition of the piñata, the kids hit a barrel hanging from the ceiling filled with candy that they will get their hands on once the barrel is broken.


In Denmark, a popular baked good associated with Fastelavn is the fastelavnsbolle, a round sweet bun with jelly or cream filling and sometimes filled with whipped cream as well. Understandably, this tradition is popular among adults and kids alike.


[English: Valentine's Day] This lovers' day is celebrated annually on February 14 all over the world. Though the celebration of Valentine's Day is relatively new in Denmark and not in the slightest considered a religious tradition as it is in other parts of the world, it is still celebrated in the traditional way by sending cards, flowers, chocolates, and other gifts to your loved one. 


[English: Winter holiday] In Denmark, the schools are in charge of scheduling their own school breaks outside of the national holidays and in Odense, the winter holiday is usually in week 7 (middle of February). In other parts of the country, the winter break is in week 8 and only rarely in weeks 6 or 9.   



[English: Daylight Savings Time] On the last Sunday of March at 2:00 in the morning, it's time to adjust your clocks to Daylight Savings Time by winding your clocks one hour forward. It's always a topic for debate whether these biannual adjustments are necessary, but until otherwise decided, Danes will continue to adjust their clocks - or 'put the lawn furniture out' as a popular phrase in Denmark puts it. 



[English: April Fool's Day] There's a tradition among the media in Denmark of making up false news stories with an obvious humorous or exaggerated premise in celebration of April Fool's Day. It's also the day to put one over on your colleagues - all in good fun!


[English: Easter] Easter is among friends and family celebrated with a feast known as Påskefrokost (English: Easter luncheon), a buffet-style meal with many smaller dishes of fish, eggs, and lamb and, of course, snaps! (schnapps)


On Easter Sunday, the kids go scavenging for Easter eggs in the garden.


Prior to the Easter holiday, kids will send paper cuttings called gækkebreve (English: snowdrop letter) with a teasing verse that prompts the receiver to guess who the sender is. If they don't guess it by Easter Sunday, the recipient must bring the sender an Easter egg and vice versa if the recipient is able to guess it. Traditionally, a snowdrop flower was sent with the letters.



[English: The national emergency siren] Every year on the first Wednesday of May at 12 noon, the national emergency siren is being tested. You will hear the sound of a siren for a few minutes, and as of 2023, you will also receive an alert on your mobile phone.

Arbejdernes kampdag

[English: (International) Workers' day] The day is commonly known as Arbejdernes kampdag or 1. maj (May 1st). Many people attend political speeches arranged by the labor unions or the labor parties. It's a day of celebrating the past victories of the workers movement. In Copenhagen's Fælledparken, the annual 1. maj celebration, hosted by the central workers' union, gathers tens of thousands of people, but it's a day of celebration for the whole country.

4. maj

[English: May 4th] Officially, the liberation from the German occupation during World War II began at 8 in the morning on May 5th. Since then, Danes have put a candle in the window in celebration of the announcement of the liberation that was broadcast on the radio in the evening on May 4th. 


Though the tradition has been mostly upheld by the generation who suffered through World War II, the tradition has evolved among younger generations to be a candle lit in sympathy with nations suffering through war today.

Mors dag

[English: Mother's Day] You will not miss a reminder of Mother's Day in Denmark as it is widely promoted by the chocolate industry, bakers, and florists in the weeks leading up to the day. Mother's Day in Denmark is always on the second Sunday of May.

Store Bededag

[English: Great Prayer Day] This holiday was abolished in 2023 where the last Great Prayer Day was celebrated, but it used to be a national holiday on the fourth Sunday after Easter Sunday. When it was put on the Statute Book in 1686, it was meant to be a day of prayer, fasting, and penitence.

Nowadays, most Danes associate the Great Prayer Day with hot wheat buns spiced with cardamom (in Danish: varme hveder) which had the bakers running fast on the night before Store Bededag.



[English: Constitution Day] On June 5th, the Danes celebrate both their first constitution, which was signed on June 5th in 1849, as well as their current constitution which was signed on the same date in 1953.

On this day, you will hear political speeches with topics centering around the Danish democracy and current political issues. This is usually an outdoor event that takes place all over Denmark in town squares and parks. 

Fars dag

[English: Father's Day] Father's Day in Denmark is marked on June 5th. Generally, it is celebrated in a much smaller scale than Mother's Day but the tradition is still upheld by some.


[English: Pentecost] Pentecost is the beginning of the Christian Church. That is why Pentecost is also called the birthday of the Church. The festival falls 50 days after Easter.

To many Danes, Pentecost is associated with the coming of summer and the flower, white narcissus. The Monday after Pentecost is a holiday in Denmark and most parish churches give a church service on this day.


[English: Saint John's Eve] The tradition of Sankthansaften is celebrated on the evening of June 23rd and can best be described as a mix of the Christian commemoration of John the Baptist and the June Solstice. It usually coincides with the beginning of the kids' summer holidays.

Today, Midsummer's Eve or Sankthansaften is celebrated around a big bonfire with friends and family singing national anthems and songs of summer. Some still perform the pagan ritual of putting a doll - a witch - in the bonfire to send it off to the witches' gathering in Bloksbjerg.


[English: Student drive] Wearing their white graduation cap with a ribbon signifying the type of school/gymnasium they're graduating from, graduating Danish students spend up to two weeks celebrating their high school certificates. They go to endless parties during the summer and for their studenterkørsel, the students are transported around town on the back of a truck stopping at the home of each class member where parents provide food and drinks.

Be ready for a lot of youthful enthusiasm, inebriation, and some humorously decorated trucks with clever (and sometimes lewd!) wordplay. 



[English: Summer holidays] The school holidays in Denmark lasts from the end of June, through the month of July, and lasts till the beginning/middle of August, six-seven weeks in total. 

Tour de France

Denmark loves cycling in general, and if you're finding yourself wondering why the streets seem so bare during the month of July, chances are that Tour de France on tv is what's occupying the Danes' attention. You don't have to love Tour de France - but knowing a few facts about this competition may be a great conversation starter. 


Første skoledag

[English: First day of school] After the summer holidays, the first day of school is usually in the first half of August. The exact date and weekday vary. 



[English: Student welcome] For the students of higher education, school starts in the beginning of September, and you will find many student-oriented activities, festivals, and parties around the major cities in Denmark during the month of September. 



[English: Fall holiday] The fall holiday is always in week 42 (middle of October), and the same goes for all schools nationwide.


[English: End of Daylight Savings Time] On the last Sunday of October at 2:00 in the morning, it's time to end Daylight Savings Time by winding your clocks one hour back. This should give you an extra hour of sleep and extend the period of morning light for a couple of weeks. It's time to wind your clocks back - or 'put the lawn furniture away'.


Halloween is gaining popularity in Denmark and on October 31st, the kids will dress up in scary costumes and go door to door in the late afternoon/early evening and ask for candy from all the houses that display a lit carved pumpkin. The schools will also typically mark the occasion with a party and use it as an opportunity to get creative with scary decorations. 



[English: J-Day] J-day is short for Julebryg [English: Christmas brew) and is always on the first Friday of November. The Christmas beers, that are especially brewed for the holiday season, become officially available at 8:59 pm. Very silly, very Christmassy, and very beerful!


[English: Martinmas Eve] Saint Martin's Day is November 11, the day when Saint Martin was elected Bishop of Tours in 371. According to the legend, Saint Martin humbly tried to avoid becoming a bishop and therefore hid among a gaggle of geese. The geese cackled and thus revealed him. Consequently, he decided that every year on November 11 the geese must lose their lives to be eaten.


In Denmark, the tradition of Martinmas is not celebrated by the church but marked by Danes on the evening of November 10th with a traditional dinner: roast goose or duck. Eating poultry on Martinmas is one of the most solid traditions of Danish cuisine.



Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. The advent wreath with its four candles (one for each Sunday), the nativity scene, the advent calendar with a surprise each day in December leading up to Christmas, and the calendar candle that has the December dates 1-24 painted on it, are all popular advent traditions among both children and adults. 


[English: The Day of Lucia] The Lucia procession in celebration of Saint Lucy’s Day (or the Day of Lucia) is on December 13th. While singing the Lucia hymn, children walk in procession around schools, kindergartens, churches, and sometimes nursing homes. A Lucia procession is a procession headed by a child wearing a crown of candles or lights. The others in the procession hold a single candle each.


[English: Christmas Eve] Juleaften is on December 24th where families celebrate with a dinner where the crown jewel is usually either a pork roast or roasted poultry. Sides are boiled potatoes, caramelized potatoes, pickled red cabbage, and lots of gravy.


For dessert, the tradition divides itself into two schools: either warm, milky rice porridge topped with butter and cinnamon sugar or a creamy, cold rice pudding with a side of warm cherry sauce. Whether you prefer one or the other, the tradition is that you place a blanched almond in the dessert, and whoever gets the almond gets mandelgaven (English: the almond present).


Danes join hands around the decorated candlelit Christmas tree and sing hymns and Christmas songs before opening Christmas presents.


Christmas is directly followed by two national holidays, Christmas Day and Boxing Day and on these three Christmas days, you may see more Danes in church than any other time of year. 


[English: New Year's Eve] Nytårsaften in Denmark is celebrated with friends and is usually quite the boozy affair. Schnapps, champagne, drinks, beer, and wine are major ingredients in each step of the festivities. Fortunately, alcohol-free alternatives are gaining popularity so everyone can feel included. 


Many will start off the evening by watching Queen Margrethe II's New Year's speech to the nation at 18:00 on December 31st. Dinner will then commence, and though there used to be a firm tradition of eating boiled cod on this night, the tradition is no longer upheld by the majority, and dinner can be anything you'd like.


Just before midnight, everyone gathers for a glass of champagne and some kransekage (English: Marzipan wreath cake) while counting down the last few seconds of the old year. The national anthem is sung and immediately after, each party sets off their own fireworks creating a nationwide fireworks display during the first hour of the New Year. 


The day after New Year's Eve is a national holiday. 

Why do the busses wear the Danish flag (Dannebrog) on certain days?

Read more about religious holidays and traditions in the Lutheran Church year.

School holidays in Odense

The national emergency siren: what to do in case of a national emergency?


Are we missing any traditions on our list? We welcome any corrections and comments.