Great Prayer Day

Great Prayer Day, also known as General Prayer Day, is a holiday that falls on the 4th Friday after Easter and is celebrated on the 4th Friday after Easter. It’s a holiday that’s observed in Denmark, where it’s also known as Store Bededag, and in the Faroe Islands where it’s known as Dýri Biðidagur. In Greenland, this holiday is known as Tussiarfissuaq.

This holiday is basically a number of minor Christian holy days that have been collected into one day. Although this holiday has been around since the 17th century, there are very few common traditions that are observed by the general public. The main common tradition that’s observed on this day is for people to attend special religious services.

The History Of Great Prayer Day

This holiday can be traced back to Bishop Hans Bagger who resided in Roskilde during the late 17th century. He had introduced some fasting and prayer days to an already crowded liturgical calendar, and it became apparent pretty quickly that it would be too much of a burden for people to celebrate all of these holy days.

That is when it was decided that Bagger’s added days should be combined with some of the lesser holy days. This would end up creating Great Prayer Day. A day that was then put into the Statute book in 1686 by King Christian V.

When this holiday first was placed into the Statute book, people were forbidden from the evening before to trade or do any form of work. This was to ensure that nobody was late or intoxicated when they had to attend this holiday’s obligatory church service. During this day of penitence, gambling and work were not allowed,  as were other activities that were considered to be non-essential.

Observing Great Prayer Day

On the evening before this holiday in Denmark, churches ring their bells. In Copenhagen, people walk along Langelinie or on Kastellet’s fortification, as they used to walk the city ramparts when they existed. It’s also common, both in Denmark and in other places where this holiday is celebrated, to eat varme hveder – a traditional bun.

This tradition goes back to the time when bakeries were closed for this day, so the bread was baked the evening before. These cardamon-infused wheat buns are often enjoyed with a heavy slathering of butter and eaten warm. This is a day of religious reflection and penance.

Where is it celebrated?
Greenland (Public holiday)Denmark (National holiday)Faroe Islands (Public holiday) Show all
When is it?
This year (2023)
May 5 Friday
Next year (2024)
April 26 Friday
Last year (2022)
May 13 Friday