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Introduction to Påske Traditions in Norway

Påske, the Norwegian name for Easter in Norway is characterized by more colorful traditions and joyous festivities than solemn religious observations.
Introduction to Påske Traditions in Norway
Photo : Haakon Flemen | Sun, Skiing and Hiking are three identical combination of the Norwegian Easter.

Easter is an important holiday in Norway, giving Norwegians a chance to celebrate the arrival of spring after the long, dark winter. Despite being a predominantly secular country, this holiday is eagerly welcomed by the people of Norway as a chance to celebrate the arrival of spring and to spend time with friends and family over a lengthy break from work and school.

The Norwegian word for Easter is Påske, a name derived from the Hebrew word "Pesach/Pasah" or Passover. In Norway, however, Easter does not pass over very quickly. Norway has the world’s longest Easter holiday. Traditionally, Norwegian shops and work places are closed over skjærtorsdag (Maundy Thursday), langfredag (Good Friday) and the Monday following Easter Sunday, known as andre påskedag, or the Second Easter Day. Schools are usually closed for the entire week preceding Easter.

Evolving Traditions

Easter is basically a religious holiday that is marked with a number of holy days, religious practices and symbols. In addition, Norwegians have plenty of other nonreligious things to do with all of these days off. It applies to everything from ancient traditions such as the use of Easter eggs, the Easter bunny and yellow Easter chicks, to more recent traditions like the Easter Crime Genre (påskekrim), Easter nuts and the Paganorigin Easter tree.

Of course no holiday in Norway is complete with out a large celebratory family meal. Because the Easter season includes several national holidays, Easter holiday for many becomes a time for family gatherings. The traditional Norwegian Easter lunch consists of boiled potato and vegetables with lamb meat, accompanied by Easter beer. The meal is followed by a selection of cakes and desserts as well as the everpresent Easter eggs. The lunch table is decorated with daffodils and other Easter decorations.

Mountain Trip and Skiing

Churches are naturally open for service through the Easter holiday for special services and enjoy higher attendance rates than on a normal Sunday. Many Norwegians choose Easter as one of their designated biannual visits to church. Another Easter tradition unique to Norway is the mountain trip, where Easter is celebrated up in the mountains enjoying the sunshine, skiing, and eating oranges and Kvikk Lunsj, a famous chocolate bar com prising of crunchy wafer covered with milk chocolate. The brown skin tone one gets after long outdoor days and sunbathing in the mountain air and snowrich environments, are often called "Easter brown" (Påskesol), while the increased traffic from the moun tain in the first and last days of the holiday is called "Easter traffic”. Also "Easter Lead" is a term usually used for skiing at Easter, when the snow is often old, rough and grainy, wet during the daytime and crisp in the evenings.

More Domestic  Celebration Styles

The settled image of Easter in a cabin up in the mountains, however, fades away year by year. The recent statistics on Norway’s itinerary for the Easter holidays shows that Easter turns into a gathering celebrated at home. According to Statistics Bureau’s (SSB) latest data, only one out of ten Nor wegians set on a journey. However, "Easter at home" does not mean that they do not go anywhere. There are more locally arranged events at Easter from lo cal Easter skiing to Eas ter Parade in Oslo, which began as a public walk in the middle of the 1800s. Mountain trip habit is not the only evolving Easter tradition in the country. The celebration of the "quiet week" and the holy days of Easter has diversified with a number of folk traditions. For example, Good Friday, which used to be marked by serious, quiet contemplation and compassion for the suffering Jesus on the cross, now has turned into a regular festive day. Another example is Maundy Thursday, which is a holiday in Norway, but not in Sweden. For many Norwegians, it has developed into a holiday associated with gardening and shopping. More specifically with shopping, the so-called “harrytur” or “Sverigedag” is now a common practice especially during Easter where Norwegians drive into Sweden and shop at the cheaper Swedish shopping centers near the Norwegian border, particularly in Strömstad.

Påskekrim: Why Crime Story on Easter!

Reading crime stories and detective novels during Easter is a national trait in Norway. Each year, nearly every TV and radio channel produces a crime series for Easter.  The milk company prints crime stories on their cartons.  In order to cash in on this national pas time, publishers churn out series of books known as "Easter Thrillers" or Påskekrim. Nobody quite knows why, but for some reason, Easter is a high time for reading crime stories and detective novels in Norway, where many say that Easter and the crime genre simply work well together. It is believed that the tradition of påskekrim began with an ad of Gyldendal’s publisher Harald Grieg during the Easter of 1923.

The ad, like a regular news article, appeared on the front page of Norwegian daily, Aftenposten, entitled "Bergen train looted in the night".

The text was advertising the new crime book of Nor dahl Grieg and Nils Lie. The book was a success and it was clear that people liked the idea of påskekrim. In the following year, the publishing house Aschehoug began to focus on crime during Easter time. Since then, Easter has been incorporated as the peak season for the crime genre.

A Delicous National Pride for Easter

A Sweet Easter tradition, Kvikk Lunsj is a confection created by the Norwegian chocolate brand Freia in 1937. It consists of a thick bar, composed of wafer covered with milk chocolate, and divided into four fingers. In shape and composition, Kvikk Lunsj is al most identical to Kit Kat, which was introduced two years earlier, in 1935. An average Norwegian eats ap proxomately nine Kvikk Lunsjs every year, three of them at Easter. Kvikk Lunsj is for many Norwegians a symbol of national pride, therefore the producer Freia got to feel the wrath of the people when they changed the wrapping of the chocolate a couple of years ago. Several Facebook groups were established to show that the opposition of this reckless change stood strong among the Norwegian people. For some it was incomprehensible that Freia could remove a piece of Norwegians Cultural Heritage just to save a little bit of money

A Norwegian Easter Calendar

Palm weekend  (Palmesøndag)– is the start of the Easter celebration, often with a great weekend excursion. Easter celebration starts for many with Palm weekend and is usually a time for cinema, where Easter films premiere on Friday before Easter weekend. Cinemas in Oslo and Akershus are open during Easter. Additionally, some churches organize palm walks in conjunction with Palm Sunday and other special services.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after Palm Sunday is work day for some, but since it is a school holiday throughout the week, many people are on vacation.

Maundy Thursday  (Skjærtorsdag)  the first real Easter day and for many Sverigedag. There are long queues on the major roads to Sweden because of the influx of Norwegians going Easter shopping. Good Friday  (Langfredag) , Good Friday is one of the three days a year the TV stations don’t put commercials on TV – they show charity ads instead. Good Friday used to be a long day in which laughter, loud talking and extravagance were forbidden. In Oslo, the Church City Mission still organizes walk through the city on Good Friday. Easter Eve   Saturday in Easter week is not as sacred as the other Easter days and is celebrated often as a feast day. Easter Saturday is not a public holiday and the shops are open. Holy Saturday is usually the day the kids get Easter eggs filled with sweets. Many host fun Easter ski races and other activities on Easter Saturday. Easter Sunday   Easter Sunday in Norway starts with a good Easter breakfast: eggs, usually colored, is an important part of the meal. Fresh bread is also indispensible in an Easter breakfast. The table is also decorated with Easter goods. Most Norwegian children receive Easter eggs on Easter Eve, but someone has to wait for Easter Sunday. Tradition has it where the Easter Bunny comes with eggs on Easter Sunday and hides them around. The children are often up early and go hunting for eggs.

Easter Monday   Easter Monday is associated as a relatively calm day. The day’s most significant signs are packing, returning home and preparing to start a new work day, and then have to wait for the next noteworthy tradition, namely the national day 17 May.

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