Limited by Norway's emergency measures, an American living in Norway describes his family's plans for a different Easter vacation this year.
In Norway, påske (Easter) is a cherished time of year. The days are finally getting longer, the sun finally returns and the weather shifts from harsh cold to a (usually) quite pleasant low temperature range that is perfect for skiing and enjoying long hikes in the forest.
Spring in Norway is truly special and for many, påske marks the start of Spring. The birds are chirping, green grass begins to show, beautiful bright flowers pop up all over, the sun returns and brings with a beautiful blue sky.
In addition, it’s usually one of the best times of year for fresh oranges and there are an ample number of “free” holiday days on the calendar. As a result, Norwegians are out in droves to hit the ski trails or mountains, soak up the sun and enjoy a “Kvikk Lunsj og appelsin”.
For my wife and I, påske is our favorite time of year and we wait eagerly for it to arrive so we can take a week of vacation skiing in the mountains, fishing in the fjord, eating too much candy, and soaking up the warm beautiful sun. It’s usually also a great time to break out the Jagermeister or Fireball, crank up the radio and enjoy some great “after ski”.
While this year is no different in the beauty of the season and in our thankfulness for warmth and sun, there are a few major changes due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. This article takes a quick look at some of our favorite Easter traditions in Norway and how those may be slightly different this year.
Cabin trips, alpine skiing and the infamous after-ski
Normally, we head to the cabin near Åndalsnes for påske and look forward to long beautiful alpine ski trips in the mountains.
Read more: Norway's Cabin Culture
We do a lot of Randonee skiing, in which we put “skins” on the bottom of our skis that allow us to hike up the mountains. On average, it’s about a 4-6 hour trip up with some breaks along the way to eat lunch, enjoy the scenery, take photos and marvel at the incredible beauty that surrounds us in all directions.
Once we reach the top, we peel off the skins, put on helmets and downhill clothing and get ready to reap the sweet rewards of our hard work. The downhill of course is usually only about 30 minutes, but well worth the trek. Even as I type this, my imagination is drifting off to snow covered slopes drenched in rich warm sun with beautiful blue skies and views of the fjord below.
This year, due to travel restrictions and the limitations of local hospitals, people have been asked to not travel outside of the community in which they live. In other words, “don’t go to the cabin!” This means that rather than frolicking on the snow covered mountain slopes we dream about all year long, we’ll instead find some local adventures.
Luckily. Trondheim is filled with beautiful forests, excellent skiing and tons of great places for a young family to explore. So, we’ll head up into the forest behind our house and have a bonfire, we’ll build some forest shelters, we’ll cook hotdogs, we’ll ski the local trails and hopefully we’ll enjoy good weather.
While traveling to the cabin in Åndalsnes or visiting our favorite ski resorts is a luxury, we certainly have more than enough beauty and adventures here to keep us busy and satisfied. We are thankful that the community is keeping people safe and healthy and slowing the spread of COVID-19 and reducing potential burden on local hospitals by limiting travel at this time.
Soaking up the sunshine on the veranda
While many may say “sunshine is sunshine, no matter where you go”, there is nothing like the views from the rooftop straight towards Store Vengetind and our other favorite mountains from the cabin.
Nonetheless, all of our neighbors here are already out enjoying the sun and recently warm(ish) weather on their patios. Whether bundled up in heavy jackets or occasionally managing to brave it in a t-shirt, the weather so far has been quite nice and we hope that this påske continues to bring lots of warmth, blue skies and sunshine.
It’s actually been really nice to see everyone at home, enjoying time grilling or sipping on a cold beer in the springtime sun and it feels almost like the summertime vibe when you get a wink, smile and “skål” back from the neighbors next door.
Read more: Easter Traditions in Norway
So, while the views may not be the same and we may not have that same hytte kos vibe, I’ll take sunshine anywhere I can get it and I think this will be a really nice påske to remember as we enjoy the best of it with our closest friends and neighbors (keeping a safe and very Norwegian distance between us, of course).
Easter egg hunts with avalanche beacons
Easter egg hunts have always been a ton of fun and a big thing for us. In recent years, we’ve hidden eggs all around the cabin and used avalanche beacons to locate them (one beacon in the ground buried near the egg and one search device on ourselves). This provides a great opportunity to practice critical mountain rescue skills while having fun.
Usually, my wife hides about 24 eggs which contain riddles and clues to where the other eggs are hidden and it becomes a family race with the in-laws to see who can gather the most eggs and find the coveted few that are full of candy.
This year, since we have a little 18-month old daughter, it will be her first year really doing an Easter egg hunt. We’ve already been practicing indoors, filling eggs with small toys or notes or drawings and scattering them about the house for her to find. It’s a ton of fun for her and a great family stress reliever for us as we juggle the difficulties of watching a little one while remote working.
We look forward to the real Easter egg hunt when we’ll scatter eggs throughout the house, yard, and local neighborhood to have an afternoon long adventure. Since she is young, we’ll fill the eggs with healthy children’s treats, smoothies, drawings and stickers.
Despite not being at the cabin, I am certain that this year’s Easter egg hunt will be our best ever!!!
Satisfying the sweet tooth
Påske is the sweet tooth time of year! Normally, everyone heads to the local grocery and shovels an insane amount of unwrapped loose candy into paper bags to snack on during the entire påske holiday. You ski, you drink, you eat waaaay too much candy, you repeat. That’s the basics of påske for most.
Read more: Norwegian Chocolate Bars You Must Try
However, due to COVID health concerns, the grocery stores are no longer selling unwrapped loose candy in the bins (and for good reason!). Luckily, many stores have done the nice thing and filled bags of various sizes with mixed candies.
So, while you can’t choose exactly how much you want of each, it’s still quite nice of them to package the candies into individual assorted bags for purchase. There are of course also still all of the options of chocolates, wrapped candies and everything else as normal.
Fishing in the fjord
Normally, påske is one of the best times of year for fjord fishing. Often, we (and by we I mean my wife) reel in a good amount of fresh fish, which sometimes includes massive cod. This makes for a great lunch time meal for the family and it’s a nice break to fish or kayak for the day when your legs are exhausted from skiing.
Read more: Fishing in Norway
This year, there probably won’t be any fishing. It’s not because of lack of opportunity, but rather lack of equipment. While there is still Trondheimsfjord in close proximity, we don’t have a boat here! Hence, there’s at least one favorite påske tradition that will have to wait.
Arts & crafts, aka “påskepynt”
Easter decorations haven’t always been a huge thing here… but with daycare closed and spending more time at home than usual, wifey has managed to create some pretty cool Easter decorations.
In addition, the thoughtful teachers at the daycare have put together some packages and idea lists to keep the little ones busy. So, we have had plenty of DIY projects to fill the house with bright Easter cheer.
I think we would have done some decorations regardless, but I score this up as a win given the circumstance. Despite juggling the full list of things to do, it has been really nice to have the whole family home as wifey and I trade turns watching our daughter… and having so many smart craft ideas has been a huge blessing and lots of fun!
Påske sculptures in the snow
This one is a big tradition for us. Each year, we hike to the top of a big mountain, cook some food, enjoy a Kvikk Lunsj and build a huge snow sculpture.
We’ve done bunnies, bears, chickens and a handful of other funny designs… including a wedding cake in celebration of our upcoming marriage in 2017. For color, we use flavored drink mix which doesn’t do any harm or leave any chemicals in the snow after.
We hope to do a påske sculpture again this year, but as I look out the window all of the snow has melted. Perhaps we get the chance to find some along one of the ski trails… I just checked and the app shows that the trails are prepped within the last few hours, so there must still be plenty of snow somewhere. The tradition continues!
It’s just not Easter without a murder mystery
We even do an annual påskekrim mystery where wifey plans something crazy and we all have to figure out who did what. It’s a lot of fun and keeps us all laughing. I’m sure this year will be no different.
Read more: Scandinavian Crime Fiction
Of course, one of the big celebrations is having the whole family together for a big meal of lamb. In many places, people eat rakfisk, which is a fermented dish made of trout.
While not everyone can join this year, family meals are always a highlight of påske and we look forward to having almost everyone together.