Easter in Norway
Easter in Norway is a wonderful time of year and means lots of quality time with family, friends and of course – lots of chocolate.
While Easter is a religious holiday, many Norwegians enjoy the social and familial aspects of Easter even if they aren’t religious. Easter is a very popular time in Norway to spend doing family activities, eating good food, preparing for spring and simply relaxing.
What is Easter?
Easter is a Christian holiday, celebrating what Christians believe is the day Jesus resurrected from the dead after his crucifixion by the Romans. While Easter Sunday is the actual day recognizing Jesus’ resurrection, Easter as a holiday is celebrated over a week long period beginning with Palm Sunday, the last Sunday before Easter Sunday. In Norway, Palm Sunday commonly begins with decorating ones home for the week of celebrations and visitors ahead.
Maundy Thursday, also known as Holy Thursday, is commerated as the day of the last supper Jesus had with the disciples before his crucifixion and in Norway is a public holiday. The following day, Good Friday is also a public holiday in Norway, which means schools, commerce and shopping are all closed. Holy Saturday is the last calendar day before Easter Sunday.
Everything is Closed – Lets Head to the Cabin and Go Skiing!
Commerce and business in Norway is closed on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, all but a few hours on Holy Saturday and on Easter Sunday. In addition to these days, the Monday after Easter Sunday, is also a public holiday. This means that all shopping and all business in Norway shuts down for nearly 5 days to celebrate Easter.
The ‘polet (vinmonopolet) which sells all alcohol in Norway over 5%, closes at 15:00 on Holy Wednesday (the Wednesday prior to Easter) and stays closed until the Tuesday afterward. If you live in Norway – plan ahead and do your shopping accordingly. Most grocery stores carry reduced hours on Holy Wednesday as well.
Ferry queues are normally quite long and the roads very full in the days before Holy Thursday as Norwegians retreat to the mountains for skiing during Easter. Traditionally, Easter has been the last time of the year many Norwegians can go skiing and as everything is shut down back home including school and work, it is a great opportunity for the entire family to get away and relax together. Time in the outdoors is very important in Norway and Easter is no different.
No Easter Bunny But Plenty of Eggs
Norway does not have the Easter bunny tradition as enjoyed in the U.S. Instead, Norwegians celebrate Easter chickens and eggs. Chickens are a symbol of fertility and lust as well as dawn and the sun. Eggs give meaning the rebirth of plants and animals in springtime, and the renewal that occurs after a long and dark winter.
All Yellow Everything and Bring the Outside In
Easter is marked by the color yellow in Norway and all packaging for Easter themed products in Norway is yellow. Norwegians tend to use yellow candles and napkins to dress their Easter breakfast and dinner tables too. Yellow flowers, especially tulips and daffodils, are used as decoration and given as small gifts between family and neighbors. Norwegians also use birch tree twigs and branches for Easter decorations by hanging Easter ornaments and painted eggs from them while displaying them in their homes.
Norwegians love crime and detective novels year-round but especially during Easter. While many read books to feed their crime story obsession, during Easter it is also nourished by movie marathons, crime stories on public radio stations and crime series broadcast on tv channels. Norway’s obsession with crime and detective novels during Easter began in 1923 by a Norwegian publisher.
Norwegian Easter Food Traditions
Easter time in Norway is marked with eggs, lamb, oranges, yeasted breads, cakes (of course! Norwegians LOVE their cakes!) and sweets of all sorts including lots of chocolate! Eggs are a symbol of rebirth; lamb is a symbol of Christ and spring; and oranges have been eaten en masse during Easter due to the harvests that were traditionally brought back from Spain and southern Europe during this time of year (and as oranges are high in vitamin c, they are well welcomed and appreciated after the long & dark winter). An article from the LA times reports that Norwegians eat 20 million oranges during Easter every year, which having a population of just over 5 million, works out to 4 oranges per every man, woman and child in the country. I can tell you based on experience, that this number is probably a low estimate as it is very common to see Norwegian families buy 5-7 kilos to last them over the 5 day holiday period.
The most chocolate popular during this time is the iconic Kvikk Lunsj produced by Freia (a subsidiary of Kraft Foods International). Kvikk Lunsj is akin to the American and British Kit Kat candy bar with fingers of vanilla wafers sandwiched together by chocolate crème then covered in milk chocolate. Norwegians like to eat Kvikk Lunsj at home but especially up on the mountain with an orange and as such, they have become a symbol of Easter in Norway. Norwegians also fill plastic and paper eggs with sweets, marzipan and chocolates to give to children or other adults as gifts.
Some Norwegian families enjoy a long and bountiful Easter breakfast or brunch on Easter Sunday, while others enjoy a plentiful dinner. Easter breakfast includes a varied and semi-luxurious offering of different types of bread, cheese, ham, spreads, seafood products and of course lots of eggs. Expect boiled and/or scrambled eggs on the table at Easter breakfast. Easter dinner in Norway usually means leg of lamb or another lamb dish but sometimes ham, in addition to a potato side dish and various other items.