Overdosing on crime fiction, the last ski trip of the season, or a first chance to get some sun: This is Easter in Norway!
I've never been that fussed for Easter. Back in the UK, it was never anything more than one or two days off work, an excuse to eat some chocolate, and perhaps a chance to see some extended family.
But here in Norway, Easter is a big deal. In many ways, it reminds me of the big July shutdown. Most people will have three days off work (Thursday, Friday, Monday). Banks are closed for those three days, which means payments made online on Wednesday night won't clear until the following Tuesday!
But three days isn't enough for most Norwegians, who use the opportunity to get one or two weeks off work for less of their vacation allowance. But what exactly does everyone do with their time off?
Last chance to ski
The Norwegians I know are split right down the middle on this one. The traditionalists head to the mountains to enjoy the last opportunity of the year to get some serious skiing in. Cross-country of course.
Of course, with skiing comes Kvikk Lunsj. Norwegians eat more of their beloved chocolate covered four-finger wafer at this time of year than any other!
As Easter is later this year, less people I know are able to do this. This year's winter holiday back in April seemed to be the alternative for most of my ski-loving friends.
First chance for some sun
An emerging trend sees more and more heading southwards to enjoy some desperately needed sunshine. More airlines than ever before operate out of Oslo Airport and the choice of destinations are dazzling. Media reports suggest that this Easter weekend could shatter all passenger number records at Norway's biggest airport.
Turkey in particular seems a popular destination, in fact I've seen Turkey advertised all year round more than any other destination, anyone know why? Still, whether north or south, most locals have disappeared for at least the weekend, if not longer.
If you do happen to be staying (or visiting) one of the big Norwegian cities over Easter weekend, you're likely to find it a very quiet place indeed!
The great Norwegian detective-fest
Back in my first year in Norway, I was riding the Oslo T-Bane to work with a Dutch colleague of mine. He had lived in Oslo for many years. Our conversation drifted towards Easter and I asked him if there would be a lot of films on the TV.
He then launched into an explanation of the bizarre Norwegian love for crime novels and detective shows over the Easter period. I paid little attention to this, until I saw a crime novel display in the window of Ark, a popular chain of bookshops.
I checked other bookshops and sure enough, each one had a massive display of “Påskekrim” (Easter Crime) books on offer, on a scale you'd expect of travel books in the summer, or Jeremy Clarkson books at Christmas time. There's even short story collections brought out every year from Norway's biggest crime writers.
Speaking to a few other Norwegians and a couple of expat bloggers confirmed it. Yes, Norway goes nuts for crime every Easter.
If you preferred films, then TV2 Zebra's Grøsserpåske was for you. Every night horror movies and thrillers filled the schedule. I remember seeing Like Minds and the hilariously bad Død Snø (Dead Snow) featuring nazi zombies. NRK3 showed Hairspray. That's a crime in itself.
In the years since then, it's been a similar story.
A gathering of geeks
But the Norwegian Easter is not just skiing vacations and crime novels. There's also something for the geeks! Held every year in Hamar, a few hours north of Oslo, is The Gathering! One of my regular readers described it to me in a Facebook conversation:
Several hundred young people (mostly 15 – 25 yrs old) comes here to Hamar every year to sit together in a large sports hall just doing computer things! All have their computers with them and they play games, get to know each other etc. And they do this for about the whole easter 24/7. When they don't to computer things they eat junk food or sleep in a corner. every year they get more data capasity than the year before!
They even hold a ‘Nerd Swim'. To many of you, The Gathering will sound awful. The nerd in me think it's great 🙂
Much of Norwegian life is built on tradition and Easter is no exception. It seems there is a tradition for everyone at Easter time!
So what about me? Am I heading to the hills, indulging in crime novels or geeking out with computer games? No. Now, pass the chocolates…