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EASTER

‘Påskekrim’: Why Norwegians are obsessed with crime fiction at Easter 

Norwegians read more crime novels during Easter than anyone else on Earth. But how did the obsession with reading about grisly murders during the holiday come about? 

A Nordic Noir book, popular during Easter in Norway.
Norwegians are obsessed with Nordic noir at Easter, thanks to an infamous advert. Pictured is a file photo of a Jo Nesbø book. Photo by Daniel Roland / AFP).

For most people, Easter is associated with the arrival of Spring, daffodils and excited children awaiting a visit from the Easter bunny. The days are longer and brighter, and wildflowers are starting to pop up everywhere. 

For the majority outside Norway, it is a period that is definitely not associated with gruesome murders, abductions, and mysteries, yet for Norwegians, påskekrim, or Easter crime, is a core part of their Easter traditions. But why are Norwegians so obsessed with reading about murders during Easter, and how did the tradition come about?

The infamous newspaper ad

There is no need for a detective to unravel the origins of Easter crime’s popularity. The hype around påskekrim came about due to a successful yet deceptive marketing campaign by one of Norway’s largest publishers, Gyldendal, in 1923.  

They placed a newspaper ad in national paper Aftenposten announcing their latest book release. The ad, designed to look like a regular news article, carried the attention-grabbing headline “The Bergen railway plundered” (Bergenstoget plyndret i natt). The fake headline was the title of a soon-to-be-released crime novel by authors Nordahl Grieg and Nils Lie rather than a real story.

According to author Gunnar Staalesen, the advertisement looked so real that many people in Oslo who had relatives travelling on the train the previous night called the national railway company in a panic to ask what had happened to their loved ones. Today, the advertisement might be borderline fake news, but success was achieved, and the entire initial stock of 7,000 books was sold out within days. 

It inspired what would become the new high season for crime novels in Norway, and only a year later, competing publisher Aschehoug took the plunge and made the first major marketing campaign for påskekrim. 

Below you can see a copy of the now infamous headline in a social media post by Norway’s national library. 

Nordic noir

It might seem strange to many that Norwegians, who traditionally love to spend the Easter holidays in their remote cabins in the woods, would enjoy reading about cold-hearted killers before going to bed. However, some speculate that the fascination comes from Norway being a country with relatively low crime rates and that crime novels excite people and allow their morbid fantasies to run wild.

While cuddling up in front of the fireplace after a long ski trip in blissful surroundings, the increased pulse and suspense from diving into a good crime novel feels intriguing and inviting. It allows you to be scared while knowing you are safe, and perhaps that is the greatest appeal. 

Although crime literature gained prominence around the world in the 1840s with books such as Edgar Allen Poe’s Murders in the rue morgue, crime novels first achieved mass success in Norway in the 1970s. 

Today, most of the literature read by Norwegian readers during Easter is written by Nordic authors themselves, as part of a sub-genre you may have heard of- Nordic noir.

Nordic noir, which gained prominence in the 1990s and became a popularised term with the streaming of Nordic crime shows like Denmark’s Borgen on Netflix, refers to a specific genre of crime fiction set in Scandinavia. 

Compared to English country house murder mysteries with a classic whodunit approach (Agatha Christie’s ‘And then there were none’), Nordic noir is a lot darker and moodier.

It often centres around a complicated police detective (think detective Harry Hole in Jo Nesbø’s bestselling novels) trying to solve a murder in bleak winter landscapes set to the backdrop of a bland social surface with misogyny, rape, misandry and racism lying beneath (think the Millennium trilogy by Swedish author Stieg Larsson). Although it might not romanticise the region to outsiders, it is what entices Norwegians the most during Easter. 

But who killed him, Poirot?

But it’s not just Nordic noir crime novels that grab the attention of Norwegians during Easter. There are also marathons on TV with various murder mysteries for those who prefer a more visual medium. 

Easter crime on television gained prominence in 1976 when national broadcaster NRK showed the TV adaption of the Lord Peter Wimsey novels by British author Dorothy L. Sayers. In 1984 Dalgliesh made its first appearance, followed by Miss Marple in 1990, and in 2000 Norwegians got introduced to Poirot and his iconic moustache, followed by Foyle’s War three years later.

The Easter crime marathon properly starts around Maundy Thursday (skjærtorsdag) and runs until Easter Monday. Some series will be split up so that the viewer has to come back the next day to see what happens. Many Norwegian families watch these shows together in the evening during Easter, having fun trying to guess who the murderer is. 

And similarly to the crime novels, the TV series being showcased each year for the annual Easter crime marathons are reviewed and rated by the newspapers.

So if this is your first Easter in Norway and you are looking to fit in with the crowd, pack your favourite wool sweater, some sunscreen, cross-country skis and your most grisly murder mystery book and set off to the mountains! You are guaranteed to get the full Norwegian Easter experience (and perhaps an increased heartbeat included in the price).

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NORWEGIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Five Norwegian words which help sum up May 17th

Norway's national day, May 17th, which marks the signing of the country's constitution, is a unique celebration with plenty of traditions. Here are five words that help explain the occasion.

Five Norwegian words which help sum up May 17th

Champagnefrokost

Breakfast the most important meal of the day. This is no different in Norway, and on May 17th, the meal that people enjoy the most or put the hardest work into if they are hosting (but not any literal blood, sweat or tears, hopefully) is breakfast. 

May 17th normally begins with a champagne breakfast to kick start a day of festivities. The breakfast is typically held relatively early so that people can head out to join in with the celebrations, although some will do it afterwards as a kind of brunch. 

This won’t be your typical Norwegian breakfast. Instead, the canned leverpostei is likely to be parked in favour of more upmarket and luxurious sandwich toppings. 

Barnetog

An event that typically follows the breakfast is the childrens’ parades all over the country.

The word literally translates to ‘children’s train’ but refers to parades. Kids up and down the country will typically participate in parades, usually with their school classes. This will be through the town or city centre. 

The most famous of the childrens’ parades is the one which sees kids in Oslo make their way up Karl Johan Gate Street to wave to the royal family who watch on from the palace. 

The parades usually end with a russetog. The russetog is a procession of russ students. Russ is where final year high-school students in Norway party in the lead up to May 17th. 

This parade maybe isn’t as wholesome as the kids’ one as the students tend to look a bit worse for wear after a month of partying. 

Bunad 

On Norway’s national day, you’ll see plenty of locals dressed in their national costumes. 

The day is so closely associated with the bunad that the national costume could be seen as a symbol of May 17th. 

The origins of the bunad has its roots in the period of national romanticism in Norway in the 19th century. This period led to an interest in traditional folk costumes in Norway and countries such as Germany. 

Folk costumes were worn in Norway a long time before the period of national romanticism, however. For example, in Setesdal, southern Norway, there is a tradition of folk costumes that stretches back to the 14th century. 

READ MORE: What you need to know about Norway’s national costume

Nasjonalsangen

This means the national anthem or song, Norway’s national anthem is Ja, vi elsker dette landet (yes, we love this country). It was only adopted relatively recently, in 2019. 

While Sønner av Norge, was considered the proper national anthem up until this point, Ja, vi elsker dette landet was considered more of a de-facto national anthem and certainly the anthem of May 17th. 

It was first performed publicly on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the constitution, giving the song an incredibly close link with the country’s national day. 

If you do fancy brushing up on the lyrics, just remember it’s typically just the first and last verses that are sung. 

Flagg

This one may not be overly beneficial in expanding your vocabulary, but there is no May 17th without the flags. Most apartments in Norway have a flag holder on their balcony with Constitution Day in mind. 

Not only will the majority of houses and apartment blocks have Norwegian flags on display, but most people also heading out will be carrying flags. 

The flag mania doesn’t stop there, as most breakfast tables will be adorned with flags or decorations depicting the flag. 

One rule would be to ensure that you don’t 

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