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Easter traditions in Viking land

Photograph: iStock

Text: Josephine Wan

Denmark celebrates the festive fervour of Påske (Easter) traditionally. Like other religious festivities, the Danske Folkekirke (National church of Denmark) decides which religious holidays are observed, and the culmination of Easter festivities is Danske Folkekirke's most important religious holiday. Easter in Denmark falls in April this year, indicating the arrival of the bountiful season of spring. Not only is it a religious holiday for some, but also a time that Danes enjoy family gatherings.

Easter eggs

Most of us know about Easter eggs before coming to Denmark. According to many sources, the Christian custom of Easter eggs started among the early Christians of Mesopotamia who stained eggs with the red colouring "in memory of the blood of Christ, shed at His crucifixion".

Today, you can see chocolate Easter eggs decorated beautifully in shops around Easter time. Some local chocolate shops handmake their own chocolate Easter eggs. Most people give an Easter egg to their loved ones, just like giving presents at Christmas time.

In kindergartens and schools, teachers paint and decorate Easter eggs together with the children for them to bring home to display. In many homes around Denmark, parents prepare Easter egg hunts for their children. Like Santa Claus brings children Christmas presents, many parents tell their children that the Easter bunny brings them Easter eggs. Companies have also been known to give their employees chocolate Easter eggs as a company gift, and people love it!

Write an Easter letter

The Easter letter (Gækkebrev) is a Danish tradition that originated back in the 17th-18th century. The letter consists of a poem written in verses that rhyme, and the paper is cut into many different symmetrical patterns. The names or the initials of the sender are written with punctuations instead of letters. The receiver has one chance to guess who the sender is. If he/she guesses correctly, the sender owes him/her an Easter egg. Even though this fun tradition is mostly among children nowadays, many adults still practice this.

Smell the daffodils

Yellow is the Easter colour, and many people have yellow Easter decorations and daffodils (påskeliljer) - both inside and outside. Many already plant daffodil bulbs in their gardens during winter so that they are ready to flourish and add atmosphere come Easter time. Since Easter falls during spring, many people also start taking out their garden furniture during the Easter weekend and look forward to a season with more sun.

Make room for lunch

Danes love to hygge sig (the experience of being together), and one way to do this is to enjoy delicious food with great company. Traditional Easter lunch (påskefrokost) is usually a combination of many different foods: sild (herring); tarteletter (tartlets) filled with a mixture of chicken, gravy and peas; various types of fish; eggs; shrimp; and course Aquavit – a vodka or gin-like spirit. If you don't enjoy a strong spirit like Aquavit, you might enjoy the variety of Easter beers produced during this time of year. Påske is when many families and friends visit each other – but due to Corona restrictions last year, this has not happened in a while.

The long Easter weekend

Easter always falls over a long weekend with public holidays starting from Thursday (skærtorsdag) to Monday (second Påskaedag). Besides taking advantage of the many days off for family visits, weekend getaways and påskefrokost, many also hold their children's konfirmation (confirmation). However, this year with the pandemic still going on, many churches have already postponed many planned celebrations. This year, it is more than likely that many påskefrokost (easter lunches) will probably be cancelled, as it is not recommended to hold events with many participants right now. It might be an option for you to hold small or virtual family get-togethers. Still, we advise all our readers to follow the government recommended guidelines:

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