Påske in a nutshell: Norwegian Easter customs

Finn Roed
West Bloomfield, Mich.

At the Council of Nicea, in A.D. 325, led by the Roman Emperor, the Bishops decided the Easter Formulations, namely, that Easter Sunday should be the first Sunday after the first full moon after the 21st of March. Norway follows this tradition.

The Christian traditions are deeply embedded in the Norwegian psyche as evidenced in laws regarding holidays and other observances, such as school schedules and workers’ vacations. The Easter schedule, if you will, begins with Palm Sunday, Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem.

To reflect Jesus’s suffering, very sparse decorations can be found in the churches. Easter Week is a quiet week.

The churches celebrate Maundy Thursday, to remember the Last Supper, as well as Good Friday, which seems to have a more compelling name in Norwegian, “Langfredag” or Long Friday, the day of crucifixion.

Saturday is Easter Eve and no liturgical celebrations take place. Easter Sunday is the first day of Easter. At midnight, the resurrection celebrations begin in some churches, by lighting the “Easter Candle” because Jesus called himself “the light of the world.” On this Easter Sunday, the churches are radically enhanced with decorations, the pastors wear their most colorful outfits, and the music is more upbeat. Monday, the second day of Easter, is also a holiday in Norway. The schools have a week’s vacation at this time.

Also connected with Easter are a number of objects and activities, such as Easter eggs, rabbits, chickens, and chocolate candies.

Since Maundy Thursday is a holiday in Norway, but not in Sweden, Norwegians take shopping trips to Sweden, work in their yards, travel, and enjoy family get-togethers.

For those who can afford it, a ski trip to the mountains, “Påskefjellet,” will give them that facial tan color from spending days outdoors in the “thin” mountain air and from large amounts of reflecting snow.

An interesting sidelight might be that between 1995 and 2005, there was a 37 percent increase in home invasions over the Easter holiday, while owners were vacationing. The home invasions leveled off as people acquired home alarm systems.

Not to be forgotten is the use of lamb in reference to Jesus. In Norway the sacrificial lamb is often eaten as a main dish on Easter Sunday.

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

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.