62 Degrees North

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Easter in Norway - from church pews to mountain peaks

 As many of our readers already know, for many Norwegians, Easter vacation started already on the afternoon of Friday before Palm Sunday, and will last at least 10 days, including Monday after Easter.



Maundy Thursday (Skjaertorsdag) is both a religious and public holiday in Norway, and so is Good Friday. Many Norwegians headed for the mountain slopes or their seaside cabins, and this means that the weather is an important subject.

This year, the Easter vacation began with beautiful sunshine and spring-like days here in the South, while people in the West and North were less fortunate.

However, by Good Friday, people in the North and West also looked to get some sunshine inbetween.

Even so, avalanche warnings have been issued for many of the most popular mountain regions, particularly in the North.

There is the myth, both in Norway and abroad, that most Norwegians take off for the mountains at Easter, to chase the last traces of snow, and of course to get that extra tan after a long winter indoors.

There was indeed some truth in this story several years back, but times have changed in Norway, and so has the meaning of Easter vacation over the last couple of decades.

In the mid-1970s, Easter was for many synonymous with travel. One in three Norwegians left home during Easter -- many of them stayed in mountain cabins and spent the entire vacation on skis and getting their first tan of the year.

Today, only one in 10 leaves for extended vacations. Of those who leave, about 400,000 take their backpacks and head for the mountains, according to the Norwegian Tourist Association (Den Norske Turistforening).

Others choose city vacations for Easter, and the most popular travel destinations nowadays are Paris, London, Brussels and Amsterdam. Many also head for the beaches in Spain, Turkey or Greece, and even farther afield, like Thailand and South America.

According to statistics, around 50 percent of Norwegians will spend Easter at home. More than half of those who leave home for Easter will stay in mountain cabins, while about 22 percent will stay in hotels.

Thirteen percent take shorter trips, often choosing long weekend stays in hotels in the major Norwegian cities.

Easter traditions have changed drastically in recent years, said sociologist Jens Kristian Jacobsen with the Institute of Transport Economics (Transportoekonomisk institutt) in Oslo a few years ago.

'Norwegians can finally enjoy the cities during Easter,' Jacobsen said. 'Everything was closed and empty before, but now people can enjoy going to the movies and restaurants during the holiday.'

It's no longer considered strange to opt to stay home during Easter, either.

'Many Norwegians have vacation possibilities close to home, and it's my impression that many take short day trips,' Jacobsen said. 'Those who own cabins probably feel compelled to travel to them, but I don't know if all Norwegian women are so interested in the primitive cabin life anymore.'

One often forgets that there is also the cabin by the sea, and for many, the opening up of the sea-side cabin is also Easter, more so than the snow and the mountains.

Another group that is often forgotten, are the many who can't wait to get their boats out on the water after a long winter under wraps (the boats that is). Hours are spent washing, polishing and painting the thousands upon thousands of pleasure crafts in this country.

And this is also a sure way to get a tan.

Easter in Norway begins on Maundy Thursday (Skjaertorsdag) and lasts until Easter Monday (2. Paaskedag). Maundy Thursday, Good Friday (Langfredag) and Easter Monday are also public holidays.

All told, schoolchildren get six days of vacation (not counting weekends) from school. Many adults take the entire Easter week off to spend with their families.

Very few Norwegians attend church services during Easter, partly because many are away from their home congregations. However, over the last 20 years, or so, the Church of Norway has 'moved to the mountains with the people', arranging informal outdoor church services in the most popular skiing areas, or at a hotel.

And some places you are invited to have a 'Mountain-top experience' on Easter morning, hiking or skiing to the nearest hilltop to participate in a short Sunrise Service at around 6 am, when the sun rises above the horizon.

There are also several so-called mountain chapels spread over the country, and TV channels run religious programs throughout the holidays.

For those in the larger cities, there is also the opportunity to join the Good Friday 'Procession of the Cross', during which the participants stop at various stations and pray.

Prayers are said for the authorities, the church, prisoners, the sick, the unborn child and many more. The parade is usually led by a person carrying a large cross.

Easter has also become known as the season for 'Easter Crime' (Påskekrim), when Norwegians curl up with a good mystery book or watch crime and detective series on television.

Norwegian television stations run several such series during Easter.

Also, Easter chickens, Easter eggs and the occasional Easter bunny show up all over Norway at this time of year.

Daffodils, known as Easter lillies in Norway, are usually in full bloom when Easter arrives.

We here at the Norway Post wish you all a Happy Easter!


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