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Easter 2018 and 2019

Norway’s five million inhabitants are mostly Christian and Lutheran, and Easter is kept in Norway with a good amount of zeal, both religious and secular.

201829 MarThuMaundy Thursday
30 MarFriGood Friday
1 AprSunEaster Sunday
2 AprMonEaster Monday
201918 AprThuMaundy Thursday
19 AprFriGood Friday
21 AprSunEaster Sunday
22 AprMonEaster Monday

In Norway, the main symbols of Easter are the egg and the chicken. The egg is meant to represent new life as in many countries, and the chicken is an ancient symbol of fertility. This is opposed to the more usual rabbit as a symbol of fertility, and the bunny has only recently become a part of Norwegian Easters through commercial advertisements.

There is a long run up to Easter in Norway, which begins with “Carnival” over a month earlier. This is a carry over from Catholic times in Norway, but it has lost its religious meaning. Now, it is simply a day for children to dress up in costumes and attend parties.

A week before Easter, on Palm Sunday, the Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, as recorded in the Bible, is commemorated by bringing birch twigs into homes. Palm branches are not available in Norway, so the birch branches became a traditional substitute. These branches are adorned with various Easter decorations, most notably with painted eggs. This day is also the time when Easter colours, yellow and green, are put up all over the house, when eggs are decorated, when springtime flowers are brought inside, and when Easter cards are baskets are constructed out of paper.

On the Wednesday before Easter, many businesses close down for the season, which sends crowds of Norwegians to shopping centres to get in their last shopping before their shopping options severely dwindle. Many also vacation, camp, or ski at their countryside cabins on this day.

On the Thursday before Easter, churches have special services to remember the Last Supper, when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. On Good Friday, there are again special services to remember Jesus’ death on the cross, and commercials are even replaced by charity ads on television during this day. In Oslo, Saint Olav Catholic Church holds a colourful stations of the cross procession through the streets. On Holy Saturday, a midnight service is often held to await Easter Morning, and a dinner of lamb is eaten by families at home, the lamb symbolizing Christ, the Lamb of God.

When Easter Sunday finally arrives, Norwegians enjoy a traditional breakfast that consists mostly of various egg dishes. They can be hard-boiled, scrambled, fried, or even painted Easter eggs. Some also eat caviar at this time, reasoning that fish eggs still count as eggs after all. You will see cured meats and pancakes at many Easter Morning breakfasts as well. Later, egg hunts are usually held, but the eggs are made of paper and filled with candy instead of the chocolate, plastic, or dyed chicken eggs of other countries’ Easter egg hunts.

Should you visit Norway during Easter time, four activities you may wish to take part in are:

  • Eat “bolle,” which is simply a palm-sized, sweet roll often eaten with butter and jam, cheese, coleslaw, or as part of a sandwich with cheese, salami, and cucumbers. You can also find bolle that is topped with custard or frosting and coconut sprinkles.
  • Attend any of the many outdoor snow fun events in local communities. With spring finally here after a gruelling winter, people want to get out in the weather, even if there is still snow on the ground. Expect snowball throws, foot races, skiing, and clue-based treasure hunts out in the woods.
  • Watch the abundant crime and mystery programs on TV this time of year. Also look for riddles, quizzes, and “brain teasers” in newspapers, on milk cartons, and again, on TV. It is not clear how mind-challenges like these became associated with Easter in Norway, but now it is an unshakable tradition.
  • Go to far northern arctic Norway to attend the Sami Easter Festival in Kautokeino. You will learn of this ethnic group’s way of life, hear their traditional music, see Sami films, and watch the amazing World Reindeer Racing championship.

Norway is a highly unique land, and it offers much to the tourist any time of year. At Easter time, however, there are even more discoveries than usual for visitors to make.