Danish Easter Tradtitions

Simple Danish Newsletter #9

Hi friends,

Happy Easter! 🙂

As the Easter holiday is upon us, we thought we’d write a bit about Danish Easter (Påske) traditions.

If you want, you can also listen to an episode of the Simple Danish Podcast we made covering Danish Easter Traditions here.

While Easter is fundamentally a Christian holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, in Denmark, the focus often shifts from religious observances to cultural and familial celebrations.

In Denmark, the concept of being “cultural Christians” (kulturkristne) is prevalent. This means that while many Danes align with Christian values and celebrate holidays like Christmas and Easter, regular church attendance and religious practices are not common.

Easter, therefore, becomes a season less about its religious origins and more about gathering with family, enjoying delicious food and drink, and of course Easter eggs (Påskeæg).

Danish Easter Traditions
Danish Easter celebrations are not entirely unique, and you may know some of them already. However, I think there’s still small differences and nuances that are worth learning about! Here are a few Danish Easter traditions:

  1. Easter Eggs/Påskeæg:
    A staple of Danish Easter, these are traditionally real eggs that have been emptied and painted in vibrant colours. You empty the eggs by poking a whole in the top and bottom and blowing the insides out, which is called “at puste æg”. Today, chocolate eggs and papier-mâché versions filled with sweets are also popular. The eggs are then traditionally hidden, by the Easter bunny (påskeharen) and the kids will then run around trying to find them. I grew up searching for one egg per kid, and so I always thought watching American shows or movies where kids are searching for dozens of eggs were weird. Below you’ll find an image of what Danish Easter eggs looked like in my childhood.
  2. Gækkebreve:
    This unique tradition involves sending anonymous letters featuring a snowflake-like paper cutout with a short poem or riddle. The recipient must guess the sender’s identity to avoid owing them an Easter egg, but there’s a catch: if the receiver correctly guesses the sender, then you owe them an Easter egg. It’s a playful way to engage with friends and family during the season and it’s always fun for children.
  3. Easter Lunch / Påskefrokost
    During Easter, many families gather for lunch. Here you get together and talk, and you eat and drink. In my family at least, the lunch is a mix of cold and warm food served with both dark rye bread and white bread. The cold foods can consist of
    • Marinated and pickled herring (karrysild, stegte sild, kryddersild)
    • Eggs and shrimp with mayonnaise (æg og rejer med mayonnaise),
    • Smoked salmon and/or gravlax served with a sweet, mustard-dill sauce on bread (røget laks og/eller graved laks med rævesauce).
    • Warm liver paté with mushrooms and bacon (varm leverpostej med svampe og bacon)
    • Fried fish fillets with remoulade and lemon (fiskefileter med remoulade og citron)
    • Meatballs with thinly sliced and quickly pickled cucumbers and pickled beetroot (frikadeller med agurkesalat og rødbede) This is served with ice cold schnaps (snaps) and of course…
  4. Easter Brews / Påskebryg Unlike many countries, Danish breweries have a tradition of brewing a special beer for Easter, known as Påskebryg. Characterized by a higher alcohol content, this festive brew is a favorite at Easter lunches, symbolizing the joyous spirit of the season. I am sure it is all marketing, but even so, it is one that has ingrained itself pretty deeply in Danish culture.

if you want to learn more about Danish holidays and traditions, you can also check out our guide to celebrating like a Dane here.

❤️ Our Favourite things

How to fold a gækkebrev

Gækkebreve are perhaps the most unique of the Danish traditions we mentioned in this newsletter. Therefore, we thought it was appropriate to elaborate a bit on what they are and how you can make one. Here’s the wiki on gækkebreve if you want to read more, and here’s a guide on how to fold and cut a number of different gækkebreve.

Idiom of the week: Du må have spist søm

You must have eaten nails. This expression is used when someone does something utterly incomprehensible or stupid, or maybe more particularly, when they express an intent to do something of such sort. It can be used similarly to “you must be crazy” or the similar Danish phrase; du er ikke rigtig klog.

Here’s an example:

Fremlejer: Værsgo’, her er så værelset. Det er kun 8 kvadratmeter, men det har stort potentiale. Der er toilet i gården og lige fortiden virker det varme vand ikke. Prisen er 10.000 kroner om måneden.

Lejer: Du må have spist søm! Du er ikke rigtig klog hvis du tror det er en fair pris!

Word of the week: Pyt

Pyt is used to express that you don’t care or that something doesn’t matter.

Pyt is a great and important Danish word, and definitely worthy of being our first ‘word of the week’. It is very versatile, but I think it’s best use is for consoling people and helping them get over small mistakes or failures.

It sort of encompasses the don’t cry over spilt milk attitude in a single word. For example, if someone did in fact spill milk and were crying about it, you could say: Så så. Pyt med det. Det går nok alligevel. Vi har mere mælk i køleskabet.

Here’s what you can say if you accidentally send a newsletter full of mistakes:
Rasmus: Sidste uge kom jeg til at sende et nyhedsbrev som var fyldt med fejl. Antonina: Pyt! Vores læsere er meget tålmodige og jeg er sikker på at de nok skal overleve.

That’s all from us for this week. We hope you have enjoyed this week’s newsletter. As always, you can let us know what you think by replying to this mail.

Have a great week 😊

Best regards,

Antonina & Rasmus