The Danish authorities have tightened their guidelines for “responsible corona handling” in the Church of Denmark and other denominations, quashing the dream of a traditional Christmas with a church service and singing.
The new guidelines for Christmas services that were announced on Christmas Eve after a meeting of a task force consisting of health authorities and various ministries limit the Christmas services to a maximum of half an hour, with no hymn singing whatsoever, Danish Radio reported.
However, the late update on Christmas Eve spurred the country's bishops, priests, provosts and the National Association of Parish Councils into calling for the cancellation of all services until 3 January.
“It is with great regret that we cannot recommend holding services from Christmas until Holy Trinity Sunday, 3 January”, they said in a statement. “As we have only received the guidelines a few hours before Christmas Eve, we estimate that it will be difficult to carry out the Christmas services,” it continues.
Church Minister Joy Mogensen supported the organisations' joint call to cancel Christmas services. She even thanked “all those responsible people who came together with a common understanding at a difficult time”.
Church employee trade unions also welcomed the announcement.
“Christmas means a lot for us employees of the Danish National Church. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that we have had to recommend the cancellation of the services, but it has unfortunately been necessary due to the increasing infection,” Gert R. Schmidt, chairman of the Danish Church Servants Association, said in a press release.
Previously churches have been urged to move the services outside, and arrange drive-in services with live streaming, if many were expected to turn up.
This coincides with Denmark reaching the peak of Covid-19 infection in Western Europe. According to Norwegian broadcaster NRK, infection rates in Denmark are currently 40 times higher than they were over the summer. Over the last two weeks, Denmark had 756.7 infected per 100,000 inhabitants, trailing only the Netherlands with 773.3 infected and Sweden with 889.8, NRK reported. For the sake of comparison, Norway had 103 infected per 100,000 inhabitants over the same period.
Overall, Denmark has seen over 143,000 Covid-19 cases and nearly 1,100 deaths.