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A year of danish vacations, holidays and festivals

One of the best things about working in Denmark is the generous amount of paid time off work. In this podcast, Kay Xander Mellish gives and overview of the full year of Danish vacation weeks, holidays, and festivals, so you can plan in advance to enjoy them fully – like the Danes do. Kay is an American who has worked for several large Danish companies and has collected her insights on working culture in Denmark into books, podcasts, and lectures.

Work-life balance is one of the things internationals like best about living in Denmark, and part of that balance is the generous paid vacation available to Danish employees. By law, full-time employees get five full paid weeks off work, and the Finansforbundet has negotiated for an additional week for employees in the finance industry, for a total of 30 paid days off per year. On top of that comes paid public holidays. You’ll have plenty of time to relax in Denmark!

Many Danes plan their years around public holidays and popular vacation weeks, which are usually indicated by “week numbers”. Week 1 is the first week of January, and the first big vacation week is usually Week 7 in mid-February. Kids get the week off school for “winter vacation”, so your colleagues with young children will often take this week off to travel with their families, perhaps to a ski resort. If you don’t have young children, you can save a lot of money by travelling during some other week! Prices are high during winter vacation. 

The next big holiday is Easter, which changes date every year depending on the Christian calendar. It can be as early as late March or as late as late April. Easter is a wonderful time to explore Denmark, because the weather is improving at this time of year and you’ll have at least five days in a row off work. Many people take more. Whether you’re visiting the beautiful Viking town of Ribe, the artists’ colony at Skagen, or Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, there is so much to see.

An old Danish tradition at Easter is the “gækkebrev”, which translates loosely to “Goose Letter”. You create an elaborate cutout on white paper and send it to a friend, but you do not sign your name. The recipient must guess who sent it – and if they can’t, they owe the sender a chocolate Easter Egg.

Following Easter are a number of public holidays in the spring, starting with “Big Prayer Day”, a holiday that only exists in Denmark. Not much praying is done on this day anymore, but it is still traditional to eat “varme hveder”, a type of reheatable wheat bun that used to be necessary because bakers were not allowed to come to work on Big Prayer Day.

After the spring holidays come the long Danish summer vacations – Danish law requires employees to be given a vacation of at least three paid weeks in a row during the summer months.

And the year rounds off with “Morten’s Eve”, a traditional November holiday in which duck is served, and the long Danish Christmas celebrations, which usually last from the beginning of November until early January.