Norwegian Easter

Before I started Historic Hostess, I had blog called “Some Assembly Required” where I made all of my food from scratch for almost a year. It was great fun, and I learned so much about food origins and “old ways” of cooking. This is where my interest in historical holidays and entertaining really started to develop. In 2011 I read an article in the Los Angeles Times about Scandinavian Easter traditions. I was captivated by the odd Norwegian traditions of eating oranges and reading crime fiction. Neither of these things seemed to have anything to do with Jesus rising from the dead, the Easter Bunny or Norway, but it sounded like fun. This article set me thinking about celebrating familiar holidays with different cultural traditions every year. What a wonderful way to learn about food, history, religion and other cultures all while eating and drinking with family and friends. All my favorite things coming together! This post was in essence my first “Historic Hostess” article and set in motion many weird, exciting and sometimes disastrous meals and celebrations that my friends and family have so graciously tolerated.

NORWEGIAN EASTER

Winter is long and dark in Scandinavia. In a southern city like Oslo, there are a dazzling six hours of sunlight a day in deepest winter, but above the 70th parallel, the sun sets at 11:37am on November 22nd and doesn’t reappear until 11:06am on January 21st and then it is just for an hour a day! As the light creeps back into the day in Hammerfest, citrus fruits are just beginning to ripen on the tree in Southern Europe. By Easter the days are getting longer and oranges are at their peak. According to that LA Times article, 20 million oranges are consumed in this country of 5 million people during Easter week. I imagine after two months in complete darkness sitting down with a bucketful of edible sunshine sounds like a pretty good idea.

Crime Fiction is such an entrenched part of the Easter holiday in Norway that there is even a word for it: Påskekrim (Easter Crime). Most businesses are closed for this major public holiday from Holy Thursday through Easter Monday, so even though Norway is a largely secular country, many people head out to their country houses to celebrate, relax, ski, eat oranges and curl up with some creepy detective novels. The story goes that in 1923 a publisher launched an advertising campaign in the Aftenposten newspaper that resembled a real headline “Bergen Train looted in the night”. People thought the ad was real, and it gained so much attention and the book was such a success that the publisher used the same technique the following year and the Påskekrim tradition was born.

While this is a strange tradition to associate with a “coming of Spring” holiday, Scandinavian crime fiction is a hugely popular genre.

We started our Easter morning here enjoying the sunshine with a breakfast of Orange Rolls cooked in Oranges, eggs and bacon.

Later in the day we celebrated with a big Easter Dinner with family and friends.
Lamb is the traditional Easter meat in Norway because Jesus was the “Lamb of God”, a sacrificial offering to absolve the sins of everyone on earth.

In addition to a great spread of appetizers that included Norwegian favorite, Jarlsberg cheese, gravlax, deviled eggs and chocolates, we served Braised Lamb of God with Herb Scented Au Jus, and Orange Pop-Overs and a Fennel, Orange and Roasted Pepper Salad. For dessert, I suggest the original inspiration, Norwegian Orange Cake from that portentous Los Angeles Times article.

If you are as lucky as me, your guests will do most of your dishes, and once they leave you can kick back and watch a couple episodes of The Killing, or finally dig into the Dragon Tatoo series.