Constitution Day: Learn more about Danish history

by Luisa Geitmann-Mügge

On June 5th, Denmark celebrates the day on which the first Danish constitution was signed in 1849, also called “Grundlovsdag”.

This day marks not only Denmark becoming a constitutional monarchy in 1849 but also the signing of the current constitution on the same day in 1953.

Even though the first constitution of 1849 is seen as introducing democracy to the Danish kingdom, it was only in 1901 that a parliament elected by the people – rather than the king or queen – was introduced.

In Denmark, this is commonly referred to as “systemskiftet” (shift in the system).

The members of parliament were thereafter elected by certain male members of society. In 1915 – with the introduction of a new constitution based on the shift in the system – women were given the right to vote in general elections in Denmark.

The role of the monarchy

While the monarchy – the royal family – had a big impact on the parliament and politics at the early stages of Danish democracy, their role has changed a lot since then.

Since “systemskiftet”, the royal family has taken on increasingly symbolic and representative roles.

Nevertheless, the current constitution states that the monarch (King Frederick X) is the official head of state, the commander in chief of the Danish Armed Forces and holds joint executive power with the folketinget and the legislative powers.

While the monarch has the right to dismiss ministers and the government, this right has not been executed by any monarch since 1920.

In practice, much of the monarch’s authority is delegated to ministers which leaves the king and the rest of the royal family to attend to their so-called ceremonial roles like representing the kingdom abroad and running marathons.

Today, Denmark’s form of government is referred to as a “ceremonial constitutional monarchy”.

Holiday or not?

Since Denmark does not have a national day, the constitution day is as close as we get to getting a day off to feel extra Danish.

Until 1975, employers were required to give their employees at least half of the day off from work.

Today, this is no longer the case. However, it is very common that a full or half day off is written into peoples’ employment contracts or collective agreements.

If you’re unsure about what applies to you, check your employment contract (ansættelsekontrakt) or the collective agreement (overenskomst) you are covered by.


Other than with most Danish holidays, grundlovsdag does not come with a plethora of foods to eat, songs to sing, and drinks to drink.

Though, you can still find celebrations, talks and other events in relation to and on grundlovsdagen. Often, these events are hosted by political parties, unions, local associations or other public organisations. 

If you are looking to submerge yourself into a local celebration of Danish democracy, you might want to search for “grundlovsfest 2024”.

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