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Lesson Transcript

Culture Class: Holidays in Denmark, Lesson 14 - General Prayer Day
Hello and welcome to the Culture Class: Holidays in Denmark Series at DanishClass101.com.
In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Danish holidays and observances. I’m Michael, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 14, General Prayer Day. In Danish, it’s called Store Bededag.
General Prayer Day may seem a bit dry, but don't worry, there's lots of history and traditions here to explore.
In the old days, the program was held at church on the fourth Friday after Easter. Today, General Prayer Day is associated with confirmations and a specific pastry treat.
In this lesson, you'll learn how Danes celebrate General Prayer Day.
Now, before we go into more detail, do you know the answer to this question:
Why did students from the University of Copenhagen traditionally walk the ramparts on General Prayer Day?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
General Prayer Day is one of the biggest days of confirmations in the church. Many Danes are "confirmed," or konfirmeret, when they are 13-14 years old. Before confirmation, it is normal to go through a period of preparation with the "priest," præst, of the parish to which you belong.
Not everyone believes in "God," or Gud, but nevertheless, many are confirmed for the sake of tradition. More and more people choose to be non-confirmed, which means that the church part is left out while still having the chance to have a party and receive gifts.
Back in the late 1700s, General Prayer Day was heralded in the evening by church bells.
This meant that shops, restaurants, and all forms of traffic would come to a stop, so you could go home and be fresh to pray for the rest of the day.
This also meant that the bakers could not work, so they would bake the night before so that people could eat freshly baked bread the next day. The custom can be traced back to the 1800s, and today many people still eat hot "wheat bread," or hveder, on the evening before Prayer Day.
Another custom associated with General Prayer Day, or rather the night before, was for people to take a stroll at Kastellet or on Christian's Vold. In the old days, the church bells at Our Lady's Church invited locals from all sections of society out for a stroll, but after the British bombardment in the early 1800s, the church was destroyed. Later, the majority of Copenhagen's ramparts were demolished, and thus the strolls were restricted to where they remain today—if the weather allows it, that is.
You’ll sometimes hear that King Christian the 7th's personal physician and counselor Johann Friedrich Struensee introduced the General Prayer Day because the holiday was one of the few that survived his holiday-reducing reform. But this is untrue. The holiday goes back to 1686 and was introduced by King Christian V.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question:
Why did students from the University of Copenhagen traditionally walk the ramparts on General Prayer Day?
They walked to honor the students who lost their lives while trying to defend Copenhagen against the Swedish attack in the mid-17th century.
How did you like this lesson? Did you learn anything interesting?
Do you celebrate something similar to General Prayer Day in your country?
Leave us a comment telling us at DanishClass101.com!
And I’ll see you in the next lesson!

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