Thousands of Danes protest canceling of Christian holiday

On Sunday, February 5, thousands of people in Copenhagen took to the streets to protest a bill presented by the government to abolish a public holiday in order to finance increased defense spending.

The demonstration was organized by the country's major labor unions, which are against the removal of the Great Prayer Day, a Christian holiday that has been observed since 1686 and falls on the fourth Friday after Easter.

The labor unions behind the protest estimated that at least 50,000 people participated, making it the largest demonstration in Denmark in more than a decade. Although police did not provide an official estimate.

The proposal to abolish the holiday was made in December in response to the Ukrainian war, as a means of raising tax revenues to support higher defense spending.

It is part of a wider reform program aimed at addressing challenges to the country's welfare model.

The government intends to move forward with its goal of meeting a NATO defense spending target of 2 percent of GDP by 2030, and claims that the extra 4.5 billion Danish crowns (USD 654 million) needed can be covered by the higher tax revenues from abolishing the holiday.

However, unions, opposition politicians, and economists have criticized the proposal, with some economists suggesting that it will not have a long-lasting impact as workers will simply adjust their working hours in other ways.

In Denmark, working hours and pay are primarily regulated through collective agreements between worker and employer groups without state intervention. Despite opposition, the government, which holds a small majority in parliament, plans to pass the bill.