Easter in Denmark is a traditional festival, where friends and family gather round for an authentic Danish Easter lunch, followed by an Easter egg hunt in the garden. We paint eggs, decorate them in yellow and pastel shades, and cut out and write little teasing letters to send each other, but the main focus of the Danish Easter celebration really comes down to food and companionship.
The Easter holidays have some of the same spirit as Christmas – a few days when businesses are closed and people enjoy spending time together. Many use the break and the arrival of spring to prepare their gardens for the growing season, or as a chance for a trip out to their holiday homes. After your Easter guests have spent the day out under the first rays of spring sunshine in the fresh, clear air, what better way of warming them up than a cosy fire indoors? Even if the sun brings a promise of good times ahead, the generous heat of a fireplace or wood-burning stove still retains its warm welcome.
Rapid and responsive heat from a wood burner
Danes typically make most use of their holiday homes between Easter and autumn. On opening up your little cabin or cottage after a long hibernation, it may feel cold and somewhat stale. A modern wood-burning stove or fireplace can quickly radiate warmth to all the rooms and turn it into a cosy, comfortable home again.
Did you know that burning firewood is a sustainable way of heating, since it gives off the same CO2 that the tree would have otherwise released by decaying naturally in the forest? In this way, we can help protect nature and our environment, while still enjoying some warmth at Easter with friends and family.
The ingredients of a traditional Danish Easter lunch
With the heating sorted, we can start to think about another essential human pleasure – food! Easter lunch is a firm tradition in nearly every Danish family and takes place as a rule early in the afternoon. Although we may refer to this as a “lunch”, it is far more than a midday snack.
For many, the annual Easter lunch is as significant an event as the festive Christmas meals partaken in December, and the Easter menu will often comprise family-specific traditional dishes inherited from previous generations.
Easter lunch is a substantial affair often lasting 4 hours or more and is generally served as a buffet, typically in three phases.
The feast normally begins with the famous Danish rye-bread open sandwiches, with toppings of salmon, herring, eggs and prawns. The hot dishes come next, traditionally lamb, chicken or beef. To close, a cheeseboard may be offered with grapes and crackers, and perhaps also a dessert.
The meal will be accompanied by snaps, the traditional Danish eau-de-vie, and a special Easter beer, brewed exclusively for the occasion.
Pastel-coloured Easter decorations
Easter marks the start of the Scandinavian spring, and we love decorating in Easter yellow and the delicate pastel shades of spring, along with early flowers such as daffodils, tulips, crocuses and snowdrops. When out on a spring walk, cut pretty branches with small buds and put them in a vase. Leave them in their natural beauty or decorate with small cardboard eggs in pastel shades.
No Easter lunch table is complete without chicks and eggs, lambs, and Easter bunnies, all symbols of fertility and regeneration. And this is what spring is – a new beginning.
Three Easter activities for all the family
The Scandinavian weather can be capricious, and our dreams of sunny spring days are not always realised. We adults can find satisfaction from relaxing days indoors, beside a warm fire, with a good book and a hot coffee – indeed, research has shown that the sight and smell of a working fireplace promote relaxation.
But not all the family necessarily enjoy such sedentary occupation, so the distractions of some engaging Easter activities may tempt both young and old.
Blowing eggs for decoration
Easter wouldn’t be Easter without eggs! Easter eggs come in all varieties – to eat and to decorate. Blowing chicken’s eggs and painting them in pastel colours makes for a rewarding, creative pastime.
This is how to do it:
Pierce the top and bottom of the egg with a needle. The holes need to be just larger than the diameter of a matchstick.
Blow or shake out the contents of the egg.
Rinse the egg inside and out with soapy water. Let it dry with a hole pointing down to let the water drain.
Once the egg is dry, you can decorate it with felt pens, paint, glitter and small feathers.
Tie a piece of thread tightly round a cut-down matchstick. Insert the matchstick into the hole in the egg and hang the egg up.
Surprise someone with a “gækkebrev”
A gækkebrev, or snowdrop letter, is an old Danish Easter tradition. The verb gække means to tease or deceive.
You cleverly fold and cut a piece of coloured paper, write an amusing rhyme on it and insert a snowdrop (the first flower of spring). The sender’s identity is encrypted with a dot for every letter in their name and the letter is secretly deposited in the recipient’s postbox.
If the recipient of the letter guesses who sent it, the sender must give them a chocolate Easter egg, and conversely, if they fail to guess, the recipient owes the sender a chocolate egg. Since the senders are almost invariably children and the recipients adults, it is traditional in effect for the recipients never to correctly guess the “teaser” behind the gækkebrev.
Organise a garden Easter egg hunt
Both decorative and edible eggs are long-standing Easter traditions, and the Easter bunny or hare is also a firm Easter favourite with families.
The Easter bunny appears in many countries, although it is thought he originates in Germany and became part of the Danish Easter traditions in the early 20th century.
Many families now have a tradition of venturing out into the spring sunshine to search for Easter eggs that the bunny has hidden in the garden. The Easter bunny uses the early morning, or a time when the children are making decorations, to hide chocolate eggs around the garden. Hiding can be made more or less difficult, depending on the age of the children.
For the very youngest: leave some obvious clues to stop the hunt becoming too frustrating.
For older children: hide hard-boiled eggs and make the task more challenging by writing letters on them and having a puzzle that needs to be solved in order to win.
This is an ideal activity for the whole family to join in and may well be the highlight of Easter for the little ones.
Take time out to grill
An Easter egg hunt may well mean lots of sweets for both children and adults, so having a break to start the barbecue season by grilling sausages over an open fire can be a welcome distraction.
When building a fire, whether in the garden, on the beach or in the wood stove indoors, lighting top-down is easier and makes the gases combust better too.