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.
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 non-religious 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 Pagan-origin Easter tree.
Of course no holiday in Norway is complete without 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 ever-present 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 bi-annual 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 comprising of crunchy wafer covered with milk chocolate.
The brown skin tone one gets after long outdoor days and sunbathing in the mountain air and snow-rich environments, are often called "Easter brown" (Påske Sol), while the increased traffic from the mountain 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 Norwegians 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 local Easter skiing to Easter 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.