Much Ado about a Christmas Tree

A Conflict Involving Danish Civil Religion


  • Margit Warburg University of Copenhagen



Civil religion, Christmas, emic/etic, Denmark, politics


Civil religion is not only a symbolic expression of national coherence; it is often also an arena of conflict, where different actors promote their own ideological interpretation of the same events. This will be illustrated through an analysis of a conflict in Denmark in November 2012, where a Muslim majority of a housing association decided to abandon the tradition of having a Christmas tree. The events and the resulting public debate were reported in more than 650 articles and commentaries in the printed press alone, and the debate divided politicians and the public on issues of national traditions, integration, and religion. A Christmas tree is an important civil-religious symbol in Denmark, and this may explain why the affair became hotly debated all over Denmark. The different commentaries from the printed press are classified and analysed from the perspective that civil religion has two complementary dimensions, that of religion and that of nation. The classification is illustrated in a graphical model of the civil-religious space between religion and nation.

Author Biography

Margit Warburg, University of Copenhagen

Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional StudiesProfessor of Sociology of Religion


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How to Cite

Warburg, M. (2018). Much Ado about a Christmas Tree: A Conflict Involving Danish Civil Religion. Implicit Religion, 20(2), 127–148.