Easter across the Atlantic Ocean

Reflections on meaningful celebrations both in Norway and in the United States

Photo: Nasjonalbiblioteket This Easter postcard from the early 1950s sums up the season—the rebirth of budding plants and a ski tour to enjoy it.

Photo: Nasjonalbiblioteket
This Easter postcard from the early 1950s sums up the season—the rebirth of budding plants and a ski tour to enjoy it.

Larrie Wanberg
Features Editor

Easter in Norway, for me, was a milestone experience in life—one that I long to repeat, even if only in a memory.

Growing up in North Dakota, Easter was church centered. Sometimes we gathered for sunrise services in the out-of-doors, often on a slight rise in the terrain, sitting on metal folding chairs in often breezy or blustery weather. But when the sun peaked above the horizon, and the chorus began singing, and the minister declared “He is risen,” those moments were moving and forever memorable.

More often, Easter Sunday services on the prairies were held in the church with Sunday School classes involved in song or pageantry. Always, services were concluded in the church basement with hot chocolate and “hot cross buns,” a sweet roll topped with two strips of white frosting forming the shape of a cross and served with warm strawberry jam or jelly.

Yet as a young student on a Fulbright Scholarship to Norway, one Easter in 1958 was a life lesson that remains in the forefront of memories. The experience serves as a backdrop, like a green screen used in TV weather shows, to review life events by what happened yesterday and forecasting through visual means what is expected in upcoming days or seasons.

In either setting, Norway or North Dakota, Easter was a time for new beginnings in the sun and being in touch for a time with the Nature that surrounds you, discovering its meaning to you.

As a lifestyle, skiing didn’t come naturally for me as a flatlander. My skiing was limited to an old pair of skis with “bear trap” bindings, being towed on a lariat rope behind a horse, or skiing in the ditches behind a car on a long rope, dodging rural mailboxes.

When I started at the University of Oslo in 1957, I went nightly to the lighted slopes near Holmenkollen to practice real skiing and tried not to be discouraged by the five-year-olds who whizzed by me on the slopes. By Easter, though, I was ready to spend an adventurous week in Voss on the downhill slopes or on the marvelous trails for cross-country skiing. Later, joining a team of Norwegian-born skiers, we climbed two peaks on two successive days and skied the powder snow on the downside glacier.

I believe that the Easter experience in Norway fulfilled the exchange purpose of the Fulbright program and more so, offered me a connection to the mind-body-spirit lifestyle that a week in the Norwegian mountains provides. Not to mention the evenings spent in the mountain ski accommodations or the Red Cross cabins with skiers from everywhere, exchanging stories around a fireplace and sharing the duties of communal-type living; these were cappers that are still vivid memories decades later.

Whenever I face a challenge—even today—I reflect on the lessons learned by connecting to the spirit of my ancestral roots from Nordfjord. After a long dark winter, often enduring numerous storms, Easter on either side of the Atlantic is a new beginning of renewal, welcoming the warmth of the sun, the extended days of sunlight, and the inherent longing to be in touch with Nature in meaningful ways.

For me, I found the best of both worlds. I married a Norwegian Fulbrighter to Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. During Easter week in our life together, we always found ways to both go skiing a few days during the week and attend sunrise services on Easter Sunday morning.

This article originally appeared in the March 25, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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Larrie Wanberg

Larrie Wanberg, 1920–2021, contributed features to The Norwegian American for many years, drawing on eight decades of life experience highlighted by three career recognitions: as a researcher through a Fulbright Scholarship to Norway in 1957; as a health care provider in behavioral science through a 27-year military career and awarded upon retirement in 1981 the highest non-combat medal, the Legion of Merit medal; as an educator, through a 50-year career in college education, culminating in the 2010 Public Scholar award at the UND Center for Community Engagement. Wanberg passed away in May, 2021.