Oh Easter. A time of reflection and celebrating the resurrection of Jesus… right? Not so much in Denmark.
Overall, Denmark is not a very religious country and only 10% of Danes equate Easter with any religious affiliation. Despite this, Denmark takes their Easter very seriously. Well.. they take advantage of Easter quite extremely.
A vast majority of people have off of work the Thursday and Friday before Easter, as well as the Monday after Easter.
Because many people have off of work, people often go on a Påskeferie which is Easter vacation. This generally includes a visit to a Danish summerhouse if possible.
It is common for Danes to have a summerhouse in different parts of Denmark, which is usually much smaller than their everyday home and strictly for vacations and summertime.
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Påskefrokost is the main event, the Sunday Easter lunch. Danes gather together with their closest family for a lunch that last most of the day.
In my family, we go to my in-laws summerhouse in the small coastal town of Ebeltoft, about 45 minutes away from Aarhus.
They have the sweetest little old summerhouse with a beautiful yard, deck, and outdoor fireplace. All of the makings of a memorable time. The home is surrounded by greenery, huge trees, and fresh flowers.
For Påskefrokost, my husband, brother-in-law + his girlfriend, mother-in-law, father-in-law, and Rune’s grandma all get together for this wonderful family-filled day, with oh so much food.
Fisk, Fisk, and more fisk
If you aren’t a fan of fish, Easter lunch can be a bit tricky.
In our family, we start off with sild. What is sild you may wonder? It’s salted herrings. Usually this is eaten on rye bread, with a crème sauce, boiled eggs, and red onions.
Next comes the warm fish dish and a class crowd pleaser: fiskefiletter. This is breaded fish fillets and is always served with a side of tart remoulade.
Karrysild is Danish curried herrings made with a spicy curry sauce and usually eaten on rye, wheat, or white bread.
Creamy crab salad, with boiled eggs, and chives on top is my jam. Along with smoked salmon, dill and red kale.
At my first Påskefrokost, I had no idea that you must pace yourself. Just as I was finishing what I thought was the entire meal.. it was just the fish courses. It is especially tricky, because for example one piece of rye bread can be filling.
To my surprise, the next course that my mother-in-law typically makes is one of my favorite Danish dishes. Tarteletter is a small tart shell with creamy pulled chicken and white asparagus. I have to limit my husband to only two of these, because left unattended he will have at least four and not be able to move afterwards.
It is also typical to serve some spring type of food, such as spring vegetables and lamb chop.
The Easter lunch usually finishes off with chocolate eggs, strawberry or berry cake, or possibly a rhubarb tart.
Snaps and Påskebryg
One thing Danes can do is drink. A lot.
I was in for a surprise the first time I attended this holiday and my father-in-law casually brought out liquor at noon. But it’s Easter lunch!
It is very common to drink Danish snaps, or schnapps in English. Dane’s take their snaps very seriously and somehow ignore the extreme taste.
While I am not a fan of this strong liquor, my mother-in-law makes homemade snaps and puts something fruity such as raspberry in it. We call it “the girl snaps”.
Lastly, is the essential Easter beer which is often a dark beer, such as a stout.
It’s all about that hygge
Easter in Denmark in one word, is hyggeligt. While there is no direct English translation for the word but the closest translation would be something that is cozy.
Hygge is being present. It’s time with friends and family. It’s taking a walk in the forest, holding hand with your boyfriend. It’s having a beautiful cup of coffee with a girlfriend while your baby sleeps right outside the cafe in their stroller. It’s reading a good book while it rains outside. It’s going the a board cafe and bonding with friends over a chai latte and dice.
The common misconception about hygge is that it is just another word for “cozy”. However, this is not the case, as hygge is – albeit difficult to accurately describe – is a feeling of warmth, safety and most importantly always strengthened when you are surrounded by people you are completely comfortable with.
Things that can enhance hygge experience such as Easter are food, drinks, candlelights, weather, games, and quant surroundings.
The most important part of hygge is making memories. Our family usually takes a long walk after we each our huge Easter lunch and soak up the sun, smells, and sites. It’s a time to stretch our legs, take the dog for a walk and get some fresh air.
In the big yard at the summerhouse, if the weather permits, we play soccer or any outdoor game.
If the weather is less favorable, cards and dice are always a hit to play with inside alongside some music and candlelight.
Everything Shutting Down
Coming from the United States, with 24-hour service stations and grocery stores open on Christmas Eve, I was in for a rude awakening when I first came to Denmark.
For the entire Easter weekend, nearly every grocery store, government agency, doctor’s office, post office, you name it, is closed. I wasn’t prepared for this when I first came to Denmark and ended up eating gas station food for days because of it. I never made that mistake again!
The grocery store that made the least amount of money in the year is allowed to be open. But only one grocery store per district, which can make life a bit harder if you don’t have a car.
Walking into the only open grocery store during Easter holidays looks very reminiscent of a full-on apocalypse. The Once polite Danes don’t hesitate to grab the last milk as you’re grabbing it. The shelves are noticeably bare and essentials are scarce.
I warned you, don’t forget to do your shopping early! Happy Easter!