Right in the middle of Norway’s Ascension Day holiday weekend came calls from the Liberal Party’s youth group to do away with all of the country’s religious holidays. The Young Liberals don’t want to give up the days off, though, just convert them into holidays that could be taken when desired.
“We don’t have a state church any longer,” Ane Breivik, leader of Unge Venstre, told news service Nettavisen just as Norwegians took a day off for what they call Kristi himmelfartsdag. Since it always falls on a Thursday, many grab the opportunity for a four-day weekend, often spent opening up summer holiday homes along the coast.
Breivik argues that there are 10 holidays tied to the Christian religion in Norway. Only New Year’s Day, May Day and the 17th of May are independent of religion. Breivik also points out that if any of Norway’s official holidays happen to fall on a Saturday or Sunday, Norwegians don’t get an extra day off.
“That provokes us,” Breivik said. She pointed out that May 1st fell on a Sunday this year and that meant Norwegians “lost” a day off. “The holidays should free folks from work,” she argues. “If all the holidays were converted to vacation days, they would.”
It can also be argued that Norway has become a much more diversified society in the past few decades. Those celebrating religious holidays like Hannukah, Id or other important non-Christian events never get a day off on their special days.
Breivik thinks everyone should have the same number of holidays every year to take off as desired, in addition to paid vacation time. It would also mean that Norway wouldn’t “shut down” like it often seems to do during the Easter and Christmas holidays, for example.
Even though religion is still taught in Norwegian public schools, state broadcaster NRK could report during the long weekend that many people randomly questioned on the street couldn’t explain why Kristi himmelfartsdag was a holiday. Oslo’s bishop was left to explain that it’s the day Christians believe Jesus Christ ascended into heaven.
Hadle Bjuland, leader of the Christian Democrats party’s youth group, express quick opposition to the Young Liberals’ proposal. “It upsets me that the Young Liberals wants to sweep up everything that has do do with our Christian cultural heritage in Norway,” Bjuland told news bureau NTB. “It’s important because if reminds us about the values that today’s society is built upon.”
Another religious holiday, the last official holiday in Norway until Christmas, looms this coming weekend, too. It’s called Pinse in Norwegian (the Pentecost or Whitsund in other countries), and is celebrated with an extra day off next Monday, June 6 this year.