Pentecost, also known as Whit Sunday, is a major holiday in Denmark, and Whit Monday is also observed, which creates a three-day weekend for Danes wishing to get away from work to enjoy the warm weather.
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The holiday comes seven weeks after Easter and falls somewhere between mid-May and mid-June, depending on the date of Easter that year.
On the Christian calendar, Pentecost is considered to be the third-most-important feast, behind Easter and Christmas. It commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit on the believers in Jerusalem 50 days after the Resurrection. They were filled with the Spirit and, when they began to preach, men of various languages all understood them in their own language. Thousands were converted and baptized, and the Church, it is often said, had its “birthday.”
Many Danish churches, which are predominantly Lutheran, hold special services to mark Pentecost. They may also hold an open-air service, where multiple congregations meet together and the Bible is read in the languages of any foreigners who may be present. A famous Danish hymn called, “In All Its Splendour Now the Sun’s Rays,” which compares the coming of the Spirit to the arrival of a Danish summer, is typically sung, along with other hymns.
Although 78 percent of Danes are members of the state-supported, Lutheran-tradition Church of Denmark, only about three percent regularly attend church services. Denmark is, in reality, a very secularized nation. Thus, Pentecost has become less of a religious celebration to many and more of a welcoming of summertime, symbolized by the blooming of the yellow-centred white narcissus.
Many Danes take to the beaches and, besides swimming and enjoying the day, watch the sun rise. They say that the sun “dances” in the Danish sky. This metaphor is used during Easter to refer to Christ’s Resurrection, but it is also used of the Holy Spirit’s coming during Pentecost. Due to the harsher climate at Easter time, in fact, Pentecost has many more sun-watchers than Easter does.
Pentecost is also a time for family outings and picnics. It is a time to get “back to nature” for those who work long hours “cooped up” in the cities. Out in the countryside, there are sometimes Summer Comes to Town festivals held, which country and city folks alike attend and enjoy.
If in Denmark for Pentecost, some ideas on what to do include:
- Join the fun at the Whitsun Carnival in Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital city. The festivities include a costumed parade on “Pentecost Eve,” live samba music, and a kids’ parade on Pentecost Sunday. The events take place in various city parks, so you can also enjoy the fresh air and summer weather.
- Attend the Aalborg Carnival, also running on Pentecost Weekend. Although Aalborg is much smaller city than Copenhagen, the carnival here is actually larger, one of the largest in Europe, in fact, with tens of thousands of attendees each year. As in Copenhagen, there will be a parade on the Saturday before Pentecost.
- Partake in the 10,000-racer strong Copenhagen Marathon, which begins on Whitsunday on the Island of Bryyge. You will find it doubles as a sightseeing tour as well, for you pass the Amalienborg Palace, the National Gallery, and other top tourist spots.
Pentecost is both a religious holiday in Denmark and a time to welcome summer, and tourist will find plenty of events to attend.