When you think about Easter, you usually see those fluffy rabbits, yellow chicks on green grass and hand-painted eggs in a wicker basket. Nevertheless, Easter includes much more than just symbols of spring, it’s packed with traditions etc. I gathered information from Norwegian website to make, at least, an overview of this holiday in Norway. Enjoy!
Let’s begin with the basics. Easter period usually starts with the Palm Sunday Palmesøndag. It’s the time where Norwegians decorate their houses with willow catkins gåsunger and green willow twigs grønne seljekvister (which develop from willow catkins). Those are called palms palmer or willow palms seljepalmer to remind of when Jesus entered Jerusalem. Norwegians are Protestants, which means they have some differences to the Catholics traditions, however, this particular thing with palms are the same (it has always been among Catholics, however, the Protestants only recently started treating palms more symbolic). From Palm Sunday until the Easter Day, there’s a period called Holy Week Den stille uke, in which workers should rest as much as possible, and it should be “quiet” in and out (which basically means no partying etc.)
On the Maundy Thursday Skjærtorsdag, the tradition says that farmers used to christen and name the newborn livestock on this particular day. Water called baptismal water skirslevatn, which was taken from streams and wells before the birds woke up, was said to be good for all the wounds. The name Skjærtorsdag in old Norwegian means purification day renselsesdagen and it refers to Jesus washing feet of disciples and enactment of the last supper nattverden.
The Good Friday is called Langfredag and is said to be the day of collective bewailing. It was the holiest day of a year and the first day of fasting in the early church Easter celebration. The national flag is lowered to the half. In many places, there was hard and painful work and small, lousy food and whipping of folk and cattle. This self-vexation is called langfredagsskjerpa, langfredagsmykja, and påskeris.
The Holy Saturday, Påskeaften, is the only day where you can still buy some food if you have forgotten to do it on Wednesday. The shops are closed on Thursday, Friday, Sunday, Monday and usually Tuesday too, so beware of it. There was the farmers custom to shoot with strong shots “into the weekend” with pistols and guns. In this way, they protected themselves from witches and other trolls, which, according to folk believes, were more dangerous and active this evening (evening of Holy Saturday). The custom of holding guard through the night våkenatt is said to be a really old tradition, there are many traces from the old times. In cities, there was also a long tradition with fropreken påskemorgen, which is basically a church service in the early morning, really common in the Protestant church (before it was called fromesse).
It was said that on the morning of the Easter Day the Sun dances in the sky, because of the happiness that Jesus rose from the dead. The old custom of hiking on the mountains peaks or hills in order to see the “dance of the Sun” still lives till this day among many places in South-Norway, for example in Lommedalen.
In the first day of Easter første påskedag, on the breakfast table, there is always the Easter egg påskeegget, which is a symbol of the spring and new life.
Nowadays, the Easter holidays are the biggest church holiday in Norway. A lot of people drive to the mountains for skiing skiferie or just to stay in traditional cottages hytte or simply some hotels. Some people also choose to travel abroad in this period, because they get a lot of free days.
I hope this post was useful and interesting. Have a good Easter everyone! Ha en riktig god påske alle sammen!
Norwegian source: forskning.no