The word ‘Denmark’ dates back to the Viking age and is carved on the famous Jelling Stone from around 900 AD. Today though Denmark is very different from its historical past. Between the 13th and 17th centuries, Denmark was a superpower whose influence was as powerful as that of the largest European countries. Today, the current size and influence of Denmark is the result of 400 years of forced relinquishments of land, surrenders and lost battles. For a small country though, Denmark still punches above its weight in many different areas including design, architecture, farming, green technology and pharmaceuticals.
The political system of Denmark is that of a multi-party structure, where several parties can be represented in Parliament at any one time. Danish governments are often characterised by minority administrations, aided with the help of one or more supporting parties. This means that Danish politics is based on consensus politics. Since 1909, no single party has had the majority in Parliament.
Compared with most other countries in the world, Denmark’s societal institutions and popular mentality have been shaped by Christianity to an exceptional degree. It can be asserted that religion is more firmly entrenched in Danish society than in many other countries.
In practice, Christianity today comes to the fore, however, primarily during solemnisations surrounding birth and death. That is to say like the other Nordic countries, particularly Sweden, Denmark is also among the world’s most secularised countries, in which religion and Christianity play only a minor, often indirect, role in public life.
In Denmark, great attention is paid to traditions and festivals, though without great ceremony. Many Danish traditions are based around the Christian calendar, with Christmas, Easter and St. John’s Eve (at the end of June) being some of the most important and typically spent together with family.
Other important celebrations include the carnival “Fastelavn” in February, New Year and Great Prayer Day, which was established to combine several traditional holidays into one day. There are also May Day (Labour Day) and April Fool’s Day, where Danes tease each other with pranks and outlandish stories. In recent years, Danes have also started to embrace both Valentine´s Day and Halloween.
The basic principle of the Danish welfare system, often referred to as the Scandinavian welfare model, is that all citizens have equal rights to social security. Within the Danish welfare system, a number of services are available to citizens, free of charge. This means that for instance the Danish health and educational systems are free. The Danish welfare model is subsidised by the state, and as a result Denmark has one of the highest taxation levels in the world.