Easter in Norway

Useful Terms and Practical Information

Skjærtorsdag – Maundy Thursday
Langfredag – Good Friday
Påskeaften – Easter Eve
1. påskedag – Easter Sunday
2. påskedag – Easter Monday

Do note that Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday are public holidays – preschools/schools, stores and banks will be closed. Many stores are open only for limited hours on Wednesday  and Saturday ). ‘Sunday-open’ stores will be open throughout the holiday.

Easter is a long holiday, in fact, Norway has the world’s longest Easter holiday. The last day for schools and some businesses is the Friday prior to Palm Sunday. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after Palm Sunday are normal working days (although most preschools and businesses are open for only half the day on Wednesdays) for many but since school-age children are already on holiday, many parents take these days off as well. Everything then goes back to normal the Tuesday after Easter.

However, if you have children in preschool or school/SFO, check if they are open on Easter Tuesday as some may have planning day (planleggingsdag) on this day so the institutions will be closed. This varies from municipality to municipality.

Easter Traditions

Spring is in the air, new life grows and the sun is back. Decorations in the home are changed to those of spring/summer colours.

The giving of Easter eggs full of chocolate and candy to friends and family is common during this festive season. Though Easter is a religious holiday, many do not celebrate it as such. Easter is synonymous with vacation in Norway – some people retreat to their cabins, go camping or skiing or travel overseas to other destinations. Others opt to stay home and enjoy the peace and quiet.

For Norwegians that live close to the Swedish border, many of them head on over to Sweden on Maundy Thursday for shopping since it is not a public holiday in Sweden so the shops are open there.

Easter is also a time of gardening and DIY (do-it-yourself) work in the homes for some Norwegians.

Symbols of Easter

Symbols of Easter in Norway are chickens, Easter eggs, and Easter bunnies. Eggs symbolise rebirth and chickens are a symbol of fertility. Yellow is the color of Easter in Norway. Crime Novels and Yahtzee are also associated with Easter – more on that later.

Many people drain eggs and decorate them, this is a popular activity among children, especially in the preschools (barnehager) and younger grades in primary school (barneskole), and at home.

There is no specific Easter dinner food, but many do enjoy ham and lamb.

On Easter Sunday, breakfast for many families usually include eggs – boiled, scrambled, fried.  The boiled eggs are often dyed or painted before eating.

Compared to Christmas, there is not as much cooking and baking occurring at Easter. However, egg dishes are aplenty, especially since many eggs have been drained for decorating purposes. Pancakes are also a popular treat at Easter.

Carnival (Karneval)

If you have children in preschools (barnehager) or schools, you probably remember carnival being celebrated sometime in Februarywhere the children dressed up in costumes for the day and had a party.

In Catholic tradition, Lent (the 40-day period before Easter) is the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. Many of the faithful commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries as a form of penitence. Carnival (Carne- vale, meaning ‘meat farewell’, was a time to indulge before the fast) In Norway it is referred to as fastelaven, (eve of the fast).

This holiday lost its religious significance after Norway became Protestant but many families still follow traditions like baking fastelavensboller (buns).

In pagan times the Norse put up birch trees inside the house to invite the smell of spring. As part of the carnival preparations, birch twigs with feathers glued to the ends are a common activity in the preschools (barnehager).

Palm Sunday – Palmesøndag

This day commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  Birch tree twigs (sometimes with feathers glued on the ends)  are brought into the house. These twigs are for Easter decorations.

People usually start to decorate their homes for Easter during this time. Spring/summer colours can be seen throughout the homes in the form of curtains, table runners, wall and table decorations, candles, to name a few.

Easter Chocolate and Candy

Easter would not be the same without chocolate and candy. Candy sales go up approximately 32% over this holiday. Kvikk Lunsj, oranges and Solo seem to be popular choices for a snack on the slopes or at home during this time. Marzipan is very very popular at this time. Almost all Easter candy has marzipan in it and Nidar is one of the main producers. They use a recipe from 1915 – their site states that each year Norwegians eat 23 million Easter figurines from them in marzipan and chocolate! For 5.2 million people living in Norway, that is impressive! All the Nidar marzipan is made in the Trondheim factory and they hire additional people to help with the work load before Easter.

Giving large eggs full of candy is very popular. This is an old and important tradition. In old times, hens did not lay eggs in the dark season – thus when the days started getting longer the chickens started laying eggs again. This was a sign that Easter was soon to come and soon the two were associated together. All the grocery and candy stores already have Easter eggs and candy out on sale.

Some Norwegian families allow the children to have chocolates and candy the entire Easter period while other families only take the goodies out on Saturday (Easter Eve).

Going to the Cabin

Many people spend their Easter holiday in cabins. Norwegians are known for loving to be on their skis and being out in the fresh mountain air – this holiday is no different. Many people see the Easter holiday as a time to relax and rejuvenate. Days are generally filled with outdoor activities like skiing, snowboarding, hiking while the evenings are spent relaxing and playing board games such as Yahtzee, most preferably with a crackling fire in the fireplace.

The Religious Celebration

Though the roots of Easter are religious, it does not seem to be the main focus in Norway. Some go to church on the religious days, but with many people out of town or living away from their home church, it is not as common.

The Famous Easter Crime Novels of Norway

Norwegians, Easter and crime go together. This tradition is uniquely Norwegian, but how did it arise? Many believe it probably began with an advertisement that Gyldendal Publishing House ran during Easter in 1923.

The advertisement, which resembled a regular news items, was published on the front page of Aftenposten titled “Bergenstoget Plyndret I Natt” (Bergen Train Looted in the Night).

The text advertised the new crime thriller of Nordahl Grieg and Nils Lie. The book sold well – it was clear that people liked the idea of Eastercrime. The following year,  Aschehoug publishing house also focused on crime thrillers at Easter. Since then Easter has been incorporated as the peak season for the launching of crime novels and thrillers, and this Norwegian tradition is now enhanced through several annual activities.

Another thing that you will probably notice, is that the TINE milk cartons will have puzzles to solve, a tradition since 1997.

Wishing everyone a Happy Easter!