Danes go to church mainly for funeral


Northern Europe


Casket in the Fonnesbaek Church in Ikast, Denmark. Photo EPA, Bo Amstrup

Danes who attend a church service often do so in connection with a funeral. That is shown by a survey from Kristeligt Dagblad.

Not the Sunday services, baptisms, confirmation or weddings are the main reasons for attending a church service. Instead, Danes come to church mainly when there is a funeral. That is reported by Kristeligt Dagblad. Of the respondents to the survey, 34 per cent indicated that their last church attendance had to do with a funeral. About 16 per cent came for a baptism, 12 per cent for a confirmation, and 8 per cent visited a church for a wedding or a regular church service.

Other research confirms this image. Astrid Krabbe, a sociologist of religion at the University of Copenhagen, studied the relationship between the Danes and the church. “We know from surveys that Danes think that funerals and burials are one of the most important functions of the folk church”, she tells Kristeligt Dagblad. Even though she found out that the Danes often do not see the necessity of going to church to practice religion, they do believe in the importance of the church when it comes to funerals. “We also call it collective membership, which is based on the relational aspect of churches.”


At the same time, funerals are also one of the “most personal and decisive meetings between church and society, parish priest and author Pia Søltoft says to Kristeligt Dagblad.

Søltoft points out that the conversation before the funeral and the speech during the funeral service is directed at “people who are grieving over a loss” and should contain a message of hope in hopelessness. “The priest has the opportunity for the most direct preaching”, she says.

She thinks the comfort from funeral sermons should be based on the basic Christian message. “It is the message that Easter is all about, and which I would like to say that most people actually have a fundamental belief in; that we will meet again.”


Easter is coming up, but it is not the most important Christian holiday that gets people to the church. Associate professor emeritus Hans Raun Iversen says to Kristeligt Dagblad that not more than 4 per cent of the Danes attends an Easter service in the church. That is nowhere near the number of people who attend church at Christmas, the expert in practical theology from the University of Copenhagen says.

Iversen suspects that the difference between Christmas and Easter in church attendance can be explained by the fact that Christmas is always on a fixed date. “Many people discover Easter only when they are in the middle of it”, he says.

In addition, the media and business world do not make Easter as big of a hype as Christmas. Whereas people start preparing for Christmas already weeks in advance, the same does not apply to Easter.



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