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Photo: Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Lifestyle

9 surprising Scandinavian easter traditions

From witches and paper cut-out letters, to ski jumps and big bonfires - here are some of the original Easter traditions that await you in our neighboring countries.

In all Scandinavian gardens, the Easter Bunny hides eggs containing candy for children. But our neighbors also have some of their own unique Easter traditions. Here are just a few of them: 

Norway

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On average, Norwegians eat four oranges per person during Easter, or 20,000 in total. 

  • Norwegians like to spend Easter in a cabin in the mountains with their family and friends. They go cross-country skiing, taking chocolate bars and oranges in their backpacks. It’s also common to grill sausages along the way in the snow.
     
  • Many people organize informal ski jump competitions and skiing races with neighboring cabins, with fun prizes up for grabs.
     
  • Whodunnits, in both book and TV form, and quizzes also form part of the Norweian Easter tradition.

Sweden

Foto: Lena Granefelt

During Easter week, sales of candy in Sweden increase by 50% compared to any other week of the year. Swedes’ biggest candy day is Maunday Thursday.  

  • On Maunday Thursday, children dress up as witches and “go witching” to neighboring houses, where they exchange their homemade Easter letters with drawings and greetings for candy and small gifts. This harks back to an old Swedish folk tradition stating that, around this time of year, witches would fly on their broomsticks to dance with the devil at Blåkulla. It is unclear as to when this tradition began, but it can be traced back to at least the 19th Century. 
     
  • In West Sweden, many thousand people gather around large bonfires to celebrate “Easter Fire”, an old tradition that intends to keep the witches away. In the past, the bonfires were built tens of meters tall. These days, they are somewhat shorter. Well before the main fires are lit, a smaller fire is ignited in order to attract spectators.
     
  • “Smörgåsbord” is a permanent fixture in Swedish culinary Easter celebrations. Various types of pickled herring, cured salmon, and the potato and anchovy gratain “Janssons frestelse” (Jansson’s temptation) are just some of the delights to be seen on the menu. 

Denmark

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Another traditional Danish dish is “skidne æg”, which consists of boiled eggs and homemade mustard sauce. 

  • In Denmark, it’s all about children collecting as many Easter eggs as possible. As a means of achieving this, they have been sending “gækkebrev” ever since the 16th Century. These are homemade letters containing amusing messages that are sent to family and friends. If the recipients guess who the sender is, they get an Easter egg. 
     
  • Art galleries open exhibitions at Easter, showing everything that has been produced during the winter. Therefore, it is a tradition amongst many Danes to take the opportunity to enlighten their artistic side.
     
  • Danes also love their Easter breakfast, which usually lasts all day. Traditionally, this consists of herring, liver paté with bacon, fish fillet, smoked salmon, meatballs and rye bread, usually washed down with a beer or a glass of snaps. 

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