As most of you already know, unlike Christmas, Easter isn’t celebrated on the exact same days every year, regardless of where you live in the world. However, one thing is certain… Easter is a spring holiday. Norwegians do what they do best, and travel to the mountains to make the most of the end of the skiing season, before they are forced to pack away their equipment and dust off the garden furniture.
Norwegians fill their bags with KvikkLunsj (a delicious Norwegian treat much like KitKat), oranges (for some reason they eat more of them on and around Easter than during the rest of the year) and some lamb cuts, and head to the family cabin. Before they get out of the house, they remember to pack another holiday essential, the påskekrim (Easter crime novel). They don’t usually read crime books, but around Easter the reading list must include a good old-fashioned whodunnit.
So, what other Easter traditions are popular in Norway?
It’s all about the egg and other Easter decorations
Decorating eggs is another popular Easter tradition in Norway. Unlike in other countries where eggs are painted in bright colours though, Norwegians use (or used to use) natural materials, like onion skins or beets to dye the eggs. This gives them a unique and earthy colour that is distinctly Norwegian. Easter egg hunts are also common, with families hiding eggs around the house or garden for children to find.
A fun fact worth mentioning is that the role eggs play in the Easter celebrations is not at all an arbitrary one. Before we started using modern technology to make sure chickens got enough light through the darker months, our feathered friends didn’t produce eggs throughout most of the winter season. It was only when the spring sun peeked out and the days became longer and brighter that the hens started laying again. This happened around Easter time, transforming this celebration into a kind of “egg festival”, a symbol of fertility.
Norwegians also decorate birch branches during Easter, using brightly coloured feathers, eggs, and other ornaments. These branches are placed around the house, adding a festive touch to the home. It’s a beautiful tradition that symbolizes the arrival of spring and the renewal of life.
Though the 40-day Lent is not a tradition still observed by most Norwegians, the post-fast feasting is still very much alive.
Food is a central aspect of Norwegian Easter celebrations, with special meals and treats being enjoyed by families during the holiday season. Roasted or grilled lamb is a favourite, along with cured meats, cheeses, and the traditional Easter bread, påskebrød. This delicious bread is flavoured with raisins and spices and served with butter and cheese.
The specific menu differs greatly from region to region, but meat is definitely a must on any table, as an echo of Lent. Traditionally one wasn’t allowed to eat any meat or animal products for several weeks before Easter, so naturally they went a little nuts with it once it was allowed again. Some regions prefer lamb, while others consume more fish, and a select few places mention pork feet as a special Easter delicacy.
The most important Christian holiday
Religious traditions also play a significant role in Norwegian Easter celebrations, even if the country as a whole isn’t very religious. Many people attend church services during the holiday season. Maundy Thursday (Skjærtorsdag) commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with his disciples, while Good Friday (Langfredag) marks the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. Many Norwegians participate in traditional processions and ceremonies during these days, even the ones that don’t otherwise attend mass.
Norwegian Easter traditions are a fascinating and diverse aspect of the country’s cultural heritage. From the popular Påskekrim to the beautiful birch branches and delicious holiday foods, Norwegians have a unique way of celebrating this special time of year. Whether you’re visiting Norway during Easter or just curious about the country’s traditions, it’s clear that Easter in Norway is a time of joy, celebration, and community.
God påske! – Happy Easter!