If you haven’t already, it’s time to learn a little about the importance of the Easter Holiday (Påskeferie) for Norwegians. Easter is vital to Norwegians, not so much for any religious reasons, but as a celebration of spring in truly Nordic style. Of course, Easter’s pagan roots were also just that, a celebration of the spring equinox, and many aspects of Easter around the world are still honoring that. So what makes Norwegian Easter so special? (Eyebrow wiggle) Well, just you wait!
Here the 3 things I’ve learned about Norwegian Easter that I love most.
Påskefjellet (Easter Mountain)
In Norway Good Thursday (I’m not even sure I’d ever heard of Good Thursday before I came to here), Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and the Monday following Easter are all holidays. So, Norwegians will often take some extra time off so they can get out of town and head up to Easter Mountain. Where is Easter Mountain, you ask? Well, apparently that term just refers to any mountain – any mountain you visit for a get-away. Ideally, they’re heading to the infamous Norwegian cabin or hytte, which may be either luxurious or roughing it in the ‘no running water’ type of way.
Sorry, I know I provided this video before, but I must do it again here, it’s just too perfect:
After I had gotten accepted into UiB, but was still in Seattle, I tried to communicate with UiB over Easter: aaaaand…. nope. I got many messages saying not to expect to hear from anyone for at least a week. Apparently, often people take up to 10 days off. Fantastic. In the U.S. we would never take time off for Easter in this way. Even Good Friday is only a holiday in 13 states, apparently. In the U.S. we might meet up with family for church (both on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, which is a drag if you’re not into it). And, if you’re lucky – and a child – an Easter basket filled with candy (delivered in the night by an Easter Bunny, of course) will appear for you on Easter morning. Potentially the basket will have things like jelly beans in colorful plastic eggs and (my favorite) Cadbury Creme Eggs. You might get to take part in coloring eggs and hiding them (if you’re an adult) or seeking them (again, if you’re a child) in an Easter Egg hunt. And of course there’s generally some sort of feast. Often with ham. But the celebrations are generally fairly short-lived and one is often finished with them, and nursing a stomach ache, by Sunday afternoon or evening.
One important thing to keep in mind, if you like me are a foreigner unlucky enough to be lacking the opportunity to ski Easter Mountain for 10 days, is that Bergen, like many Norwegian cities, will be virtually abandoned during this period (or so I’ve been warned repeatedly). So. Stock up on groceries, plan some expat parties and hikes, and get your Netflix queue ready to weather the quiet eye of the storm. Keep an eye on the hours of your local grocery stores, they seem to generally post a sign of their holiday hours and they may close early in the week before Easter – so make note! And fill your cupboards and refrigerators while you can! (Make sure to include some candy, it will go on sale all over the city shortly before Easter).
Påskekrim (Easter Crime)
Easter in Norway tis the season for crime stories. Novels, crime series on TV, Easter is the time when the Nordic mind turns to crime. You can take a crime (mystery) novel up to Easter Mountain to enjoy, or watch a multi-episode mini-series on TV. There’s even a children’s programme called Superkrim on NRK, so the kids can partake in the tradition.
Mystery novels are also popular in the United States, but to my knowledge we don’t seek them out at Easter, nor at any specific time of the year. I may have to rewatch some Dexter episodes over the Easter break in order to to at least honor my presence in Norway with a nod to Norwegian Easter habits, since I can’t make it up the mountain!
Utepils refers to a beer enjoyed in the outdoors. Apparently this can be at any time of the year, but the first utepils of the year is highly anticipated and may occur around the Easter Holiday by a solveggen (sun wall). What on earth is a sun wall, you might ask. It appears to me to be the sunny side of building or other outdoor structure. “Å sitte i solveggen” means to sit outside in the sun up against a wall. This might be a place sheltered from the wind where a person can get a taste of the sunshine.
I cannot say we have terms that express either of these things in the U.S. While, we certainly have outdoor beers and sit in sunshine, I think we could use both these terms and the traditions of appreciation of these simple pleasures. Especially when it comes to those that are the first of the season! Perhaps Norway benefits from its long dark winters by emphasizing the joy of these small human moments. Of course, I come from Seattle, nearly as dark and almost as rainy, and we have not yet developed the conscious cultivation of honoring these moments. That is what I would call the art of living, and it’s one of the reasons I wanted to come to Europe.
(I highly recommend scrolling through the site where this Utepils illustration lives. Not only are the illustrations great, but you may stumble on new favorite words, one of mine is Backpfeifengesicht, German for ‘a face badly in need of a fist’.)
I have a friend with Greek roots, and for her family’s Greek Easter celebrations, we smashed hardboiled eggs against each other two by two (the last person with an uncracked egg wins). What are your Easter traditions?
Comment below to share!