This Friday, the 17th of May we celebrate the Danish national holy day Store Bededag, Great Prayer Day. Great Prayer Day is always be celebrated on the fourth Friday after Easter Sunday.
The source for Great Prayer Day can be traced to one man, Hans Bagger, who was a bishop in Roskilde in the late seventeenth century. Bagger introduced a line of new praying and fasting days, however given the amount of holy days in the calendar already, it was decided that several of the holidays days should be combined into one and named as Store Bededag (Great Prayer Day).
In the early years, Store Bededag was taken very seriously. When church bells began ringing at 6 pm on the evening before, it was a signal to shut down all work and entertainment. This to ensure that everybody would be sober and well rested, when they had to attend the next day’s obligatory church ceremonies.
To manage this work restriction, bakers came up with the idea of preparing some extra wheat buns on the Thursday, which could then be finished and eaten the following day. Nowadays, Store Bededag is strongly associated with the warm wheat buns which is called ‘Varme Hveder’. Usually we prepare and enjoy the buns with butter on the evening before Great Prayer Day. (see recipe below) – or you can buy them in the nearest supermarket!
In Copenhagen it has been common to spend Great Prayer Day walking on Langelinie or around Christianshavn, which are lovely venues to visit when the sun is out. Otherwise be prepared to meet the Danish unpredictable April weather with an umbrella and a warm sweater.
To this day, Great Prayer Day also remains one of the biggest days of the year for church confirmations. All over Denmark the church bells will sound, and the proud young people and their families can be seen in front of the churches.
If you wish to truly celebrate Great Prayer Day like a Dane, and prepare your own wheat buns just follow this simple recipe:
100 gr. soft butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
1-2 tsp. cardamom
2 dl. milk
500 gr. all-purpose flour
50 gr. yeast
- Heat the milk so it is lukewarm and dissolve the yeast, salt and sugar in it.
- Add the egg, the soft butter, all purpose flour and cardamom.
- Knead the dough using your hands
- Leave the dough to rise some place warm for about an hour.
- Divide the dough into 8-10 equally sized pieces.
- On a parchment paper covered baking tray; place the buns side-by-side. They must be closely adjacent to each other, but without touching.
- Cover the buns with a clean dishcloth and let them rise for another hour.
- Bake the buns at 200 C for about 8-10 minutes.
- When done, let them cool down for a while. Cut the buns at the middle and toast them lightly on a toaster. Serve them warm with cold butter