Danish Easter Traditions
Have you noticed the colorful flowers popping up everywhere? Vintergækker (snowdrops), erantis (winter aconite), and påskeliljer (daffodils) are blossoming, and after a long dark winter, the small flowers get Danes very excited. It is also a lovely reminder that spring is just around the corner.
Easter therefore often marks the beginning of spring, and Danes will celebrate the season by decorating their houses with green and yellow spring colors, painted eggs and rabbit, chicken and sheep figurines. Easter is for many family-time, and while some Danes use the holidays as an opportunity to travel, many people will spend Easter participating in traditional Easter activities such as Easter lunches, Easter egg hunts, writing ‘gækkebreve’ and other fun Easter traditions.
In this article we’ll take a closer look at how Easter is celebrated in Denmark.
With Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday being national holidays, many Danes find Easter a good opportunity for a short escape to their summer cottages. The city might therefore seem quieter than usual and it’s worth checking the opening hours of shops etc. Churches have Easter services on, but it is not a tradition for many Danes to attend church during the Easter holidays.
Easter Sunday usually gathers the family together for lunch. The lunch menu often consists of some traditional Danish dishes such as pork meatballs, lamb and ‘skidenæg’ (hardboiled egg in a mustard sauce). Other popular dishes are fish fillets, herring with curry salad, eggs, salmon and liver pâté all served as open sandwiches.
To flush down the delicious food, Danes like to serve Påske Bryg (Easter Brew) – a strongly brewed beer only sold around Easter time, and snaps (a distilled spirit). You may have heard of snaps – you may even have tried it and thought your throat was on fire, but it is a staple at Easter lunches and people will cheerfully say ‘SKÅL’ and take a sip of the strong alcoholic beverage in between eating their topped ryebread.
A fun Danish Easter tradition is sending a letter called a ‘gækkebrev’ (the name ‘gække’ refers to the snowdrop flowers, which are often sent out with the letter). The tradition of sending gækkebreve dates back to the 16th century where a gækkebrev was more like a valentine letter with a riddle and a poem to someone special.
Gækkebrev later developed into a ‘teasing letter’ that is sent to a friend or a family member before Easter. The letter is characterized with beautiful cut-outs and a poem often sounding like “gæk gæk gæk mit navn det står med prikker, pas på det ikke stikker” (translated into ‘my name is written with dots, be careful it doesn’t prick you). The number of dots corresponds with the number of letters in the sender’s name. The idea is for the recipient to guess who sent the gækkebrev. If they guess correctly, the sender owes the person an Easter egg. If the recipient fails to guess who the sender is before Easter, then the recipient owes the sender an Easter egg.
There are lots of Easter crafts to keep the whole family busy during the holidays. Kids are likely to also bring home Easter crafts from school or daycare. One of the popular Easter activities is to ‘puste æg’ (blowing out eggs). The idea is to blow out the egg yolk and egg white so you’re left with the egg shell, which can de delicately painted with different colors.
Here is how you blow the egg out successfully: clean the egg thoroughly, give it a little shake, make a small hole in both ends of the egg, put your month on the egg and blow like a wolf until the egg is released. You now have an eggshell ready for decorating, and an egg to make an omelet – win win!
Another eggy tradition, which also dates back centuries, and is mostly popular in southeastern Denmark, is to ‘trille æg’ (roll eggs). For this activity the eggs should be hardboiled, and their shell colorfully painted. The participants find a suitable hill (or make one if inside) and roll their egg down the hill. The participant with the egg that gets the furthest without cracking wins the game. Given the price of eggs in 2023, it is likely the non-cracked eggs will make it back to the lunch table.
Ah the egg hunt. People will tell you it’s just for kids, but many adults get just as excited about finding the hidden chocolate eggs. The egg hunt, brought to you by the happy Easter bunny, is well-known to many people around the world. Danes love the tradition and on Easter Sunday the Easter bunny will therefore often hide one or more Easter eggs for the kids to find when they wake up.
We hope the Easter bunny makes it to your house as well, and we wish you all an enjoyable Easter break.
We look forward to seeing you around!