Easter, or Påske [po’ska], as it is called in Danish, is celebrated a bit different than anywhere else in the world. Denmark is considered a Christian country, and as everywhere, this is the Church’s commemoration of Christ’s death and resurrection. The same days are celebrated, as throughout Europe: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. However, this is also the time most Danes enjoy “Hygge” for the first time after the cold Winter days. It is much less about the gifts and chocolates (the focus for some European families) and much more about being together with your family and friends, do some activities together and having a large feast, a Påskefrokost or Easter Lunch.
It is custom in Danish families to hold huge feasts on Easter. Påskefrokost is basically an occasion where families and sometimes friends gather together for a large half-lunch half-dinner feast that lasts most of the day, that consists of plates with mostly some lamb, fish, salads, and of course the traditional Easter eggs.
Of course, what makes good food great are delicious drinks. It is tradition in Denmark to drink schnapps during Easter lunches, or special seasonal beers called Påskebryg, which are usually slightly stronger versions of normal brews.
These feasts are usually either held at home, or in many cases in summer houses. Many Danes own a second house within driving distance of their homes, close to the beach, or a rural area. These summer houses make a wonderful place for gatherings, like an Easter lunch. If you are invited to one of these houses, appreciate it, these are a private sanctuary for many Danes!
Gækkebrev, or “teasing letter / guess letter” is a special letter created mostly by children, originating from the Danish Easter tradition, viz. The basic concept is making the letter in the shape of a snowflake with the help of scissors and your own creativity. The content of the letter is a rhyming riddle, a snowdrop that symbolizes the first flower of the year, and a few dots placed instead of the name of the creator.
The rewards tend to differ from family to family. In some households, if the recipient of the Gækkebrev correctly guesses the name, they are rewarded by a chocolate egg, while at others, if you do not guess the correct name within three tries, you owe a chocolate egg to the sender.
Easter is an international holiday, and as such, most shops will be closed from the 27th of March until the 2nd of April. An exception is on the 31st of March but try not to plan shopping on that day – all the stores will be crowded.
Public transport will be running on the Sunday / holiday timetables, so make sure you plan ahead, if you are heading somewhere to enjoy the vacation.
While shops are closed during the holidays, there are countless special events all around the country and especially in Copenhagen. Tivoli Gardens opened from the 24th March, and special Easter events will take place there between the 25th March until the 2nd April. The Zoo is another obvious choice, with Easter events all through the holidays as well. In addition, many museums and tourist attractions open up during the upcoming days, with special Spring discounts too in a few places.
Many Danes spend hours, sometimes even days decorating their homes before Easter, much like they do before Christmas. The main color theme of Easter is of course yellow and sometimes green. Yellow candles can be found at almost every home at this time, with yellow napkins, colored eggs (both real and of course chocolate), and decorations.
Like the rest of Europe, eggs are the main symbol of Easter in Denmark as well, symbolizing a new life, a new beginning. Apart from the obvious boiled and fried eggs, Danes make specially-prepared “solæg”, or in English “sun egg.” This is a traditional type of cooking originating from southern Denmark and are easily recognizable from the dark yolk inside the eggs, because of the onions boiled with the eggs. These eggs also lie in a salty sauce for over a week and then eaten with mustard and chili. Delicious!
It is also tradition to throw or roll Easter eggs as a game. You either line up outside and throw boiled eggs to see who threw the farthest, or in southern Denmark, you just roll the decorated boiled eggs down a slope. In this case, the owner of the egg which gets the farthest while still being intact wins. The winner gets the bragging rights.
Another cosy Danish tradition is egg painting. You can never be too old or too young and if you’re invited to a friends over the Easter holidays, chances are you may be involved in some sort of handicraft, that isn’t focused on the result more ‘just being together.’
Remember that Danes in general are much less intrusive than other nations. If you are invited for Easter, maybe a Påskefrokost, make sure you are on time and that you appreciate the offer by bringing a wine or flowers with you for the feast. Knowing the Danes, it is preferably an alcoholic gift!