Easter in Norway means many things: time with family, a meal of lamb and potatoes, and a trip to a mountain cabin for some of late-season cross-country skiing accompanied by a Norwegian favorite, Kvikk Lunsj, a chocolate-covered wafer that’s become a traditional snack during hiking and skiing excursions.
But the most surprising Norwegian Easter tradition may be the nationwide passion for curling up with a crime novel or TV thriller during the long holiday weekend. Påskekrim, or Easter crime, has become as Norwegian as trolls, salmon, or the country’s quadrennial dominance in the Winter Olympics.
The Easter mystery tradition dates from almost a century ago, when two impoverished young authors from Bergen, Nordahl Grieg and Nils Lie, decided to try to make some money by writing a crime novel. Writing alternating chapters, they finished the book and managed to get it published by the Gyldendal publishing house under the name Jonathan Jerv.
On Holy Saturday in 1923, Gyldendal ran a front-page advertisement in the major daily newspaper Aftenposten with the book’s title, Bergenstoget plundret i natt (Bergen train looted in the night). The ad looked just like a real news story, and many readers thought the train had really been robbed. The stunt got huge attention, and the novel became a bestseller.
It also launched the enduring tradition of Påskekrim. Throughout Norway, publishers schedule new mystery releases to coincide with Easter, bookstores put up special crime fiction displays, and TV channels fill their schedules with crime dramas and thrillers. It all finds an enthusiastic audience of Norwegians eager to celebrate the holiday with murder and mayhem. They have plenty of time to enjoy it, too, since Norway has the longest Easter holiday in the world, with time off lasting from Maundy Thursday through Easter Monday.
Published 19 April 2019