Gækkebreve, påskefrokost, and påskeferie! There are many Easter traditions in Denmark that give people a chance to celebrate the arrival of spring. The holiday is regarded as one to spend with family, and hygge in the warmer weather. Read along as we highlight some of the Easter traditions in Denmark that are central to the holiday and make Easter in Denmark unique.
To many Danes, vintergækker (snowdrops) and erantis (winter aconite) are the first signs of spring. The flowers begin to blossom in late January, but are easier to spot in late February. Around that time is when the first påskeliljer (daffodils) also start to blossom. After a long winter, the small flowers create an excitement, and are a lovely reminder that spring is right around the corner.
Gækkebreve, snowdrop letters, are poems that are meant to tease the reader, and are a widespread tradition throughout Denmark. Leading up to Easter, children will cut paper in intricate shapes, and write the poems on their decorated papers. School children will send them to their friends and family, and grandparents will often send their grandchildren gækkebreve as well. There are traditional poems that are often used in gækkebreve, however gækkebreve senders can also come up with their own. The letters are always anonymous, but signed with dots that correspond to the number of letters in the senders name. If the recipient of the letter fails to guess who the sender is before Easter, they owe them a chocolate Easter egg, but if they guess correctly, the sender owes the recipient an Easter egg. Originally, the name came from two factors, the saying at gække, which means to mislead, and the tradition of placing a snowdrop in the letter.
Easter Eggs & the Easter Bunny
Påskeæg, Easter eggs, are everywhere in Denmark around Easter. People decorate their houses with beautifully painted Easter eggs, and chocolate Easter eggs are sold everywhere in stores. The påskehare, Easter bunny, will often bring Danish children a big chocolate Easter egg on Easter day, or in more recent years, a hollow decorated Easter egg that is then filled with candy. However, throughout the month leading up to Easter, children will receive chocolate Easter eggs from friends and family, so the tradition is not limited to the Easter bunny. In some families, the Easter bunny will hide a bunch of chocolate Easter eggs in the garden for children to find.
Easter in Denmark also signifies time off for many people. The holiday grants most people 5 days off from work, usually starting the Thursday before Easter, and including the Monday after. Usually children will have the entire week off from school. Easter is a time to spend with family, prepare for spring, and enjoy the warmer weather if Denmark is lucky. Often people will go to their summer cottages, and prepare them for the warmer months that are headed their way. You’ll see people prepping their gardens, planting new flowers, and enjoying long walks with family and friends.
Easter is not complete in Denmark without påskefrokost, Easter lunch, which is more like a feast than a lunch. For Easter lunch, Danes will often eat food that is very similar to the Christmas lunch spread (julefrokost). It is a meal of many open faced sandwiches that you build yourself, and it is of course accompanied by schnapps and Easter beer. The lunch starts with the fish, which usually includes but is not limited to, many varieties of pickled herring, smoked salmon, tuna, and shrimp. The second round is usually focused on the meat course, there will often be liverwurst, chicken salad, Danish pork meatballs, spiced pork roll, and other cold cuts. Sometimes families will serve Easter lamb, however, that is a quite expensive option, so not every family will choose to serve it. The meal will last for hours and hours, so if you are to attend you must be prepared for an extensive meal. Usually the dessert spread is prefaced with a long walk together before the sun sets. To many Danes, påskefrokost is just as important as julefrokost, it is a time to gather and enjoy spending time with family, central to the tradition of hygge.
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