Friday, May 8 is a holiday in Denmark. It’s a day off for most. However sadly when you ask about what the holiday is, most have a difficult time explaining it. In essence, most know it simply as a day or three-day weekend rather than a recognized celebration of some kind.
Since it’s now my seventh year here, I figured it was time I got down to brass tacks and figured this whole “Great Day of Prayer” thing out. So, I’ve done a bit of research and this is what I’ve found. If anyone has any other details or traditions, please let me know!
Store Bededag – or “Great Prayer Day,” always falls on the fourth Friday after Easter and three weeks before Pentecost or Whit Sunday or “Pinse Day” in Danish, which is 10 days after Ascension day. All of these days are celebrated as holidays in DK with Whit Monday being a holiday, and Ascension day or “Kristi Himmelfartsdag,” and “Pinse” all falling in the month of May. As a result there is only one full week of work in the entire month of May. Not a bad way to celebrate spring if you ask me.
Store Bededag is a day for praying for peace. The holiday was established in 1686 after an idea from a Danish Bishop from Roskilde, Hans Bagger (1675-1693), who sought to consolidate a number of other fasting and prayer days. So called “super prayer” day was invtented to reduce the number of days for prayer so that productivity time wasn’t lost.
In old days bells were rung from the churches the night before (at 6 p.m.)signaling for shops, bars, restaurants and other merchants to close so that people could go home and prepare for a day of prayer. This ensured people would be sober when praying in churches the following day. On Store Bededag people refrained from acts of vanity such as work, play, travel, etc,. It has also been said that prayers were made around crops to enhance growth for the season.
SO, Great Prayer Day or “Store Bededage” is tomorrow. This year will be our first year to actually take part in the traditions associated with this holiday. That is, to eat large, warm wheat rolls and walk around Copenhagen City. In fact, it’s such a big part of the holiday that it’s also known as Hvededag or “Wheat Day.”
This occurred due to the fact that bakers made extra bread for the following day because the bakeries closed on Prayer Day. People picked up their rolls for the following day. Since the rolls were fresh baked and crispy they must have been hard to resist because it became tradition to eat them the eve before!
The second tradition is to walk around Copenhagen to enjoy the spring blooms, including it’s many chestnut trees, and as a gesture to show good citizenship. It started in the 1700s around the Frue Kirke or “Københavns Domkirke,” which range the bells to commence the holiday. Sine the bell was destroyed by the British, it is now tradition to walk around the ramparts of Kastellet and/or Christianshavns vold (embankment from the old fortification) around the old mill or “Lille Mølle,” a Dutch made mill from 1783 located between Torvegade & Bådmandstræde.
Tonight there is a concert in the church at Kastellet Church at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. It’s free, but tickets must be picked up in advance outside the church from 6:30 p.m.At the Little Mill, the shop officially opens this evening with tours and warm rolls available at 6, 7, and 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the nearby restaurant Bastionen and Løven.
Here is a recipe for the wheat rolls should anyone feel inspired to do as the Danes. I think for us we will keep with tradition and pick some up from the bakery.
NOTE – this is a very rough translation from DR
3 dl milk
35 grams yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
½ tsp cardamom
1 egg white
50 grams potato flour
approximately 450 grams of wheat flour
1 egg yolk
Melt margarine/butter and add milk, salt and sugar. When it has cooled add yeast. Then add cardamom, egg white, potato flour and half wheat flour. Then stir in the rest of the flour a little at a time until dough is soft and smooth.
Place the dough in a bowel with a towel over the top. Put in a warm place for about an hour.
Knead the dough through and make into 16 buns made with 1 cm intervals in a form lined with baking. Let the rolls sit and rise for 30 minutes.
Brushed the rolls with whipped egg yolk and put in a heated oven (200 degrees Celsius). They will bake in about twenty minutes.
Let cool, cut and toast or put in the oven to 250 degrees until crispy. Add butter and/or jam. ENJOY!