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A Danish easter

Photographs: Pexels

Text: Dominic J Stevensen

The strung fairy lights, lanterns, and candles of winter have given way to the array of colourful eggs hanging from twigs, branches, bushes, and trees in Danish gardens across the land. They also adorn tables and other shelves inside. There are other Easter-related decorations, too – many bunny-shaped or floral. The cold is slowly easing out of its winter jacket, and the shift is now clear. It is a sign of the spring, what everyone has been waiting for, stepping out from the bubble of semi-hibernation. Skies are less troubled, bluer, clearer, though the unpredictable is always nearby, and never more than in early spring.

Easter (påske) signals light, hope, a different kind of warmth – the return of the sun. It drives people outside, and the focus shifts to those havens they love so much – their gardens. Where before all that mattered was the importance of our homes and the cosy indoors, where we would spend most of our time, we would now turn our attention, and a great level of care and attentiveness, to our gardens – and to the playgrounds and parks and outdoor life. We would concentrate on what grew there that had previously been greys and browns and muted, drab colours, the lifeless, stationary, grim glory of winter, and bask in the sunshine that would come eventually.

Easter, a gateway to spring, less about religion than it was in the past, was celebrated in Denmark in simple and elegant fashion. Observed traditions remained, children had some days off school, and the whole place stood still for a moment. If you were religious, you went to church, if you were not, you revelled in a little down time with the family regardless, or perhaps went on a rejuvenating break somewhere abroad. Somewhere hot, I heard people often saying they needed. The Danish climate was compelling, though, and not to be escaped from.

The local church holds another memorable service for the family, decorations could be found everywhere (in houses and gardens, popping up in unexpected spots), and a sense of occasion pervades the streets, the neighbourhood, as a shift in mood to match the arrival – or imminent coming – of spring becomes evident. Naturally, families reunite after several months of working, retreating to home amidst the outside gloom, and enjoying the cosiness of indoors.

"Easter, a gateway to spring, less about religion than it was in the past, was celebrated in Denmark in simple and elegant fashion."

So, Easter is an annual event worth celebrating together. Easter flowers, eggs and bunnies, cheerful, bright, and colourful decorations, and a long weekend to enjoy together (not dependent upon which day of the week it falls a la Christmas). Treasure hunts for children are also a common event at this time of the year, one that truly feels like a much-needed break. Children revel in the opportunity to have some fun unique to the occasion, though it often feels as enjoyable for the adults – watching and witnessing it all – as anyone else.

There is an Easter brew (påskebryg), as ever there is for any standout celebration of the calendar year (or just any day of the week ending in ‘day’), and a special Easter dinner (påskefrokost). While lamb is, as in other countries, a dish typical for this time of the year, the chief cuisine of the season is based on the much-loved Danish rye bread and several possibilities constructed on top – such as meats, liver paste, cheese, and perhaps something fish-related will find its way onto your rye bread. After all, this is a country with the sea everywhere.

Then, there is the good old paper and scissors magic of gækkebreve, cutting all manner of symmetrical delights, meaning kids can be occupied, busy, and productively creating their very own decorations for the occasion.

Finally, I have discovered a concise list of Easter films – for both adults and kids – to check out from this year henceforth. A good seasonal movie can enhance the experience no end!

The Easter period, as ever, includes Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday. While these days are all public holidays, planning can ensure that you avoid shops being shut for the food and goodies you might have had your eye on for the magical weekend.

I wish you a wonderful window of eggs, togetherness, and warming, bluer weather taking us into spring and beyond.

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