Holiday traditions

by Chava Sanderson

Fastelavn takes place in February or early March and is the Scandinavian version of Carnival. Although the official day is always on a Sunday, daycares choose another day during the week to celebrate this fun occasion. In the days or weeks leading up to the celebration, children often help with preparations. They may decorate twigs and branches called fastelavnsris or paint wooden barrels that will be used during the celebration. 

When the big day arrives, the kids dress up in fun costumes, and daycares around Denmark are flooded with superheroes, princesses, pirates, animals, and cartoon characters. The highlight of the day is when the kids line up to slår katten af tønden. A wooden barrel full of candy or other goodies is hung up and children line up to take turns hitting it with a stick. The person who breaks the barrel enough for the treats to fall out wins the title of “cat queen” (kattedronning). The kids continue to take turns hitting the barrel until it is completely knocked down, and the person who knocks the last piece to the ground is crowned “cat king” (kattekong). Afterwards, everyone takes a break and  enjoys some pastry buns filled with cream called fastelavnsboller.

Påske - Easter

Most daycares do not have Easter celebrations, but many make Easter crafts or springtime decorations. Older children may learn how to make gækkebrev. This tradition includes cutting designs into a piece of paper and writing a special message. The receiver must guess the name of the sender. If the receiver guesses incorrectly, they must give the sender a gift (usually candy or an egg). 

Santa Lucia

Many daycares celebrate Santa Lucia in mid-December. During the event, children dress in white robes and hold (usually fake) candles while singing the Santa Lucia song.  Daycares may choose to hold the event inside the daycare, outdoors, or in a public building like the local courthouse or a church. It is not uncommon for some parents to attend the event, although not everyone does, as it usually occurs during the day. Although Santa Lucia is  traditionally only performed by girls, it is common for boys to participate in the daycare version. Nursery-aged children do not usually perform the song, but are often introduced to the tradition by watching the older children perform. Here is a link to a Youtube video posted by a private Danish daycare. It is a good example of a typical Santa Lucia event. Click here to see the video

Julefrokost - Christmas lunch

Some daycares hold a Christmas lunch and serve traditional Christmas food. Children are often encouraged to dress in their best clothing when attending the julefrokost. Their “best clothing” is often a princess dress or spiderman costume, a suit or dress, or just their favorite or most comfy set of clothes. 


Halloween is a fairly new holiday in Denmark. Some daycares may allow children to dress up for Halloween, while others do not actively celebrate the holiday. In many areas of Denmark, Halloween is becoming a popular event to celebrate in local neighborhoods. Many kids go trick-or-treating in the evenings, and in certain areas, you can find homes elaborately decorated as haunted houses.

Summer Vacation

Most daycares ask parents about summer vacation plans in early spring. This can be annoying for parents, but it is also important, as the daycare leader needs to schedule summer vacations for the daycare personnel. Most daycares will close for at least one week during the summer, and some may close for 2-3 weeks. Most of the time, alternative childcare will be offered for those who need childcare while the daycare is closed.

The majority of children in daycare hold at least around 3 weeks of summer vacation in June, July, or August. Some may hold 2 weeks, while others hold 4-5 weeks. Some parents may hold choose to hold a longer vacation during the spring or fall to avoid the busy summer season prices.

Some daycare workers may try to pressure parents to take vacations during certain weeks of the summer – especially if it helps with scheduling issues, but parents always have the right to schedule their vacations as they choose, as long as the daycare is open. 

Autumn Vacation and Winter Vacation

Schools are often closed during autumn vacation (October) and winter vacation (February), but most daycares remain open. Many people with school-aged children travel and take their younger children with them as well. Therefore, the daycare may request that parents inform the daycare as to whether or not their children will need childcare during these weeks. This allows the leader to plan for adequate staff during the week. 

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