Denmark Cancels Prayer Day To Boost Defense
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
COPENHAGEN (Worthy News) – In a controversial move, Denmark’s parliament has voted to cancel a centuries-old Christian public holiday “to boost spending” on the military.
Lawmakers voted 95-68 to scrap Store Bededag (Great Prayer Day), a holiday observed since the 17th century.
It has been held every year on the fourth Friday after Easter, with stores and bars closed to mark the occasion.
The Great Prayer Day was introduced in the Church of Denmark in 1686 by King Christian V to consolidate several Roman Catholic holidays that survived the Reformation of the national church, historical records show.
But the closure of businesses in that day hampers economic activity—and crucial tax revenue, the government argued.
“With [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s attack on Ukraine, there is war in Europe. The threat has moved closer,” the government wrote in a 2022 document outlining its policy goals.
“To finance increased military spending in the coming years, the government will propose a law abolishing a public holiday that will come into effect in 2024. Danes must contribute to our common security.”
Denmark’s government hopes the additional tax revenue from abolishing the holiday will help it reach a longstanding NATO target of spending 2 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on defense. Few European countries hit that mark, angering the United States.
An official estimate suggests canceling the public holiday would generate as much as 3 billion kroner ($439 million) annually. Last year Denmark’s defense budget was 27.1 billion Danish kroner ($3.9 billion), or around 1 percent of its GDP, according to official estimates,
In December, the government pledged a further 300 million kroner in military aid to support Ukraine’s war efforts.
But there has been opposition from opposition politicians, trade unions, and church leaders.
Last month an estimated 50,000 protesters gathered outside the parliament in Copenhagen, the capital, to protest the plan.
The scrapping of the Great Prayer Day was adding to concerns about Europe increasingly abandoning its Christian roots and traditions.
In Denmark, protestors also objected to having to work more. So far, Denmark has had 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.
Karsten Honge, a member of the Socialist People’s Party, disagrees. “Stop the thief,” the legislator said during this week’s parliamentary debate ahead of the vote. “The government is ordering people to work one day more.”
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