Easter is a Christian holiday, spanning from Christ’s crucifixion to his resurrection. From Maundy Thursday where he had the last supper with his apostles, to Good Friday, where the crucifixion and death of Christ takes place. Then unto Holy Saturday, where Christ is laid to rest in his grave, and then Easter day, where Christ rose from his grave and removed the last of doubt in the heart of his disciples.
However, in a small country up in Scandinavia, with snowy mountains and quite long Easter vacations, we might have taken the Thursday of Mysteries a little too far.
A Norwegian show called ‘Alt for Norge’ (All for Norway), where descendants of emigrants from Norway to America get to come back to Norway and compete for seeing their Norwegian families, has an episode about teaching them to celebrate the different seasons in Norway.
Christmas, 17th of May, our national day, summer and Easter. They are all excited to go a cabin in the mountain. Skiing the way there the mood is high, and they all imagine how fun it will be to relax in the mountain sun and maybe have some nice Norwegian snacks. However, as they arrive, they find a murder scene right in front of the cabin. The presenter of the series is killed, and they have to solve the murder from clues left behind.
To their horror and confusion, they find this is something perfectly Norwegian for Easter.
Egg hunts, the Easter bunny, the celebration of Christ’s crucifixion for our sins. This is what most people think of when they think about Easter. And candy, lots and lots of candy. While the most God-fearing go for the full celebration of Christ. With the crucifixion and everything. Really dedicated people.
In Norway it is the last chance for many to enjoy the end of the winter season. Some go to the mountains for ski strips with their families, or they go to their cabins and lock the world out for a few days.
Still, there is a few things most of these people, and even those of us that remain in the cities for Easter will have in common. One if mountains of candy, filled chocolate eggs and kvikk lunch (Our version of kit kat, we just love it more). Hot chocolate will be ready, and for some that are going for the ski tracks, some sausage might be packed and ready, either ready boiled or ready to roast over a fire once a nice spot is located. Solo, an orange flavored yellow soda, is usually also a part of this, or at least a knitted clothing with the solo or kvikk lunch brand on it.
The other thing a lot of these people might have in common? Books with bloody murder and crimes to solve.
In Norway, we have a quite unique Easter tradition. We have ‘påskekrim’, or Easter crime. A lot of new bestsellers in the crime genre are released in time for Easter. Blogs and newspapers all publish lists of the bestsellers of the year and what you should bring to enjoy reading, basking in the glow of your fireplace. Which are the scariest ones, and which has the juiciest murders? And it is not just books. No, each Easter we all flock around the TV (once the kids are asleep) and find what the different channels are showing of the newest crime shows from around the world. Here in Norway, Hercule Poirot, as played by David Suchet, is a national Easter hero, the series shown religiously for each Easter until it ended, now reruns of the series are sent each day through the entire year. Shifting between Poirot, Miss Marple and Father Brown.
We Norwegians are mad about crime fiction at Easter, and we are the only country in the world that has these grizzly phenomena. Why? Did we feel like Christ’s death needed some mystery? Did someone point and claimed Christ had been framed and we needed to find the real culprit?
Or was there something else that happened?
In the lead up to Easter 1923, two men wanted to earn some money. They were broke and under the name of Jonatan Jerv, Nils Lie and Nordhal Grieg, set out to make a bestseller. Nordhal’s brother worked at the publishing firm Gyldendal, and they made some adds for the book in a popular news paper called ‘Aftenposten’ (Evening mail).
On Palm Sunday 1923, on the front page, the headline: ‘Bergen train looted in the night’, is on the top. Nothing to show it is any sort of advertisement, and it caught the eyes of everyone. Many believing it to be real, and interest were spiked from a lot of curious Norwegians.
With all the attention of the advertisement, the novel becomes a big success, and is in all terms the first of many Easter crime novels. Ever since it has been used as the publishing firms best time for releasing new thrillers and mystery novels, and it is a staple in our Easter that is just so natural now we don’t really think about it.
So, if you are bored this Easter, and want to try something new. Get all the candy in the house. Turn off all lights, light some candles for mood, or pull up by a fireplace in a good chair. Turn your phone off and find the best crime novel you can find. Lean back, and you can also share in a unique Norwegian experience.