For members


Why do Danes love the Danish flag so much?

Danes have a love for their flag bordering on obsession — not only is it a symbol of patriotism for national holidays and football games, the Dannebrog is also the default theme for birthday parties (yes, even for children) and is a staple for celebrations of any sort.

Why do Danes love the Danish flag so much?
A spectator holds a Danish flag during the match between Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark and Elise Mertens of Belgium. REUTERS/David Gray

Most Danish households have a small arsenal of flags in various sizes to suit all of life’s most Danish occasions, and there’s a year-round section of Dannebrog party supplies in most grocery stores. Don’t forget the Dannebrog garlands for your Christmas tree, either.

But how did the Danish flag develop this cult-like devotion? (Other than apocryphally falling from the sky in 1219, of course.) According to Torben Kjersgaard Nielsen, an historian at Aalborg University and author of a book on the Danish flag, the Dannebrog was strictly a symbol of royalty and the military through the 18th century. But in 1801, celebrated actor H.C. Knudsen stirred up patriotic sentiment with performances of songs and poems honouring Denmark, always staged in front of a Dannebrog.

“From then on, the flag grew to become a popular flag, pointing to allegiance to the kingdom (fatherland) rather than the monarch himself,” Kjersgaard Nielsen told The Local. Golden Age poetry praising Denmark’s ancient heritage natural beauty further swelled national pride, to the Dannebrog’s benefit.

READ MORE: Denmark’s Dannebrog ‘fell from sky’ 800 years ago today 

A child counts the number of Danish flags on a cake to see how old the birthday girl is. Photo: Lars Plougmann/Flickr.

By the 1830s, Danes were flying the Dannebrog so much it became a source of concern for the autocrat king Frederik VI—“flags were at his time starting to be used as markers and symbols of independence and democracy” as in France’s July Revolution, Kjersgaard Nielsen explained. In 1833, Frederik VI forbade private use of the Dannebrog over the government’s objections.

But even the king couldn’t keep the Dannebrog down. “The popular use of the Dannebrog surged during the war with Schleswig-Holstein in 1848-50 and the personal uses may have developed from there,” Kjersgaard Nielsen said. “It was used hanging as a garland on Christmas trees (German tradition, in fact), and it was used to celebrate happy events, weddings, anniversaries and probably also birthdays.” After it became impossible to enforce, the ban was lifted in 1853 and Danes have proudly hoisted the flag at every opportunity since.

Today, the flag represents joy and celebration as well as a love for country, Kjersgaard Nielsen said. “There is a debate going on in Denmark – and it has for a long time now – where some people argue that the flag is xenophobic and overly nationalistic; others – the majority – seem to understand that this is just one of the manifold uses of the flag and that waving the flag does not mean supporting right wing policies.”

READ MORE: Danish policies ‘fuel fear and xenophobia’: UN 

Last month, you likely saw the Dannebrog plastered on studenterkørsel—the party buses ferrying tipsy gymnasium graduates from house to house—and on storefront windows advertising sales. It’s never too early to start collecting for next year’s Flag Day, or Dannebrogsdag, on June 15th.

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For members


Why does Denmark have church tax and do you need to pay it?

Church tax in Denmark is voluntary but 72 percent of the population pay it. We take a look at why.

Why does Denmark have church tax and do you need to pay it?

What is church tax?

Income tax in Denmark is divided into a number of components. There are the two state taxes, basic and top tax (bundskat and topskat,); municipal tax (kommuneskat) and labour market tax (AM-bidrag).

There is also a voluntary church tax, called kirkeskat. The exact rate of this depends on the municipality but it averages at 0.87 percent.

You pay this church tax when you become a member of the national church in Denmark, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, which in Danish is called Folkekirken

How many people pay church tax in Denmark?

According to Statistics Denmark, there are 4,276,271 people in Denmark registered as members of the Church of Denmark (Folkekirken) out of a population of 5,932,654. That means around 72 percent of people in Denmark are members of the National Church and pay church tax.

Church membership in Denmark has remained high for the past ten years, despite several surveys showing less than a fifth of Danes see themselves as “very religious.”

However there was a spike in the number of people leaving the church in 2016 following a nationwide advertising campaign by the country’s atheist society.

What happens when you become a church member?

Anyone can attend a service at a church in Denmark but to hold an event, such as a baptism, wedding or a funeral, you must be a member of the Danish church and pay your voluntary church tax. When you are a member, you do not pay the church for a wedding or burial.

This is why many people in Denmark are members, as well as wanting to support the maintenance of the church buildings, some of which date as far back as the Middle Ages. 

At least one of the couple must be a member of the Danish church to be married there. You can usually only be buried with the presence of a priest if you are a member of the church when you die.

You cannot vote in or run for parish council elections unless you are a church member.

How do I become a member of the church?

You become a member of the Danish church, Folkekirken when you are baptised. If you are a member of an Evangelical Lutheran church abroad, you automatically become a member when you take up residence in Denmark. 

If you’re baptised from another church, you can become a member by filling in a form at your local church.

You don’t need to be a Danish citizen to become a member of the church, but you cannot be a member of both the Evangelical Lutheran Church and another religious community at the same time.

Young people aged 15 and over decide themselves whether to be baptised and become church members or leave the church.

READ ALSO: The complete guide to confirmation in Denmark

Denmark is divided into parishes, and each parish has its own church. If you wish to belong to a church in another parish, you contact the priest at the parish that you would like to join.

You can find your parish church here.

How does it affect my taxes?

Once the church has confirmed you as a member, it is updated on the national record, the central person’s register (CPR) and your church tax will automatically be drawn from your monthly salary and appear on your payslip as kirkeskat. The exact rate depends on the municipality but according to Folkekirken, it averages at 0.87 percent. It is calculated based on your total income.

Children and young people who do not pay tax do not pay for membership.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to understand your Danish payslip

Denmark has around 2,400 churches and 2,000 cemeteries. The church tax covers the running and maintenance of the churches in the municipality. It ensures that a service is held every Sunday in local churches across the country, as well as other events and community services.

What if I want to end my church membership?

You can decide at anytime to end your church membership and church tax. You can do this by submitting a form to your parish church. This can be done in person or in writing and you can find your local parish here.