Every country celebrating Easter has its own traditions.

In Germany, kids are searching small baskets brimful with sweets which the Easter mommy aka Easter bunny has hidden.

In the Netherlands, people are shopping furniture on Easter Monday.

In Norway, people are indulging in crime.

Crime?? What on earth is happening in Norge, and why?

Well, around Easter, of its 5.367.580 inhabitants, approx. 5.367.579 consume a “påskekrim” – an “Easter crime story” that comes in many forms: books, TV/radio series, newspaper serials or mini crime stories on, er, melk cartons.

Norwegian Crime Novels

Some classics of Norwegian crime

This “Only in Norway” tradition was launched just before Easter in 1923. Yep, launched, as it stems from an advertising campaign for a crime novel called Bergenstoget plyndret i natt Train to Bergen Robbed Last Night.

And a clever launch it was: The editor placed an ad on the front page of Aftenposten, one of the big national papers. The ad had a bold headline directly under the header, so it looked like the main news. They had made the “advertisement” sign so small that people who had friends or family traveling with the real Bergen train the day before got scared as they thought it was real. Think War of the Worlds radio drama, only 14 years earlier.

Ever since, the påskekrim belongs to Easter like Jordan Schlansky to Conan.

Norwegian Crime Novels for Easter
Norwegian Crime Novels Easter

When Crime Takes to the Mountains

Besides those criminal activities, around 5.367.578 inhabitants are going on a “hyttetur” or “på fjellet” – meaning they go to the mountains and stay in cabins or cottages for the Easter holidays.

And what, pray, happens there?

Well, there is påskekrim, of course. But first:

1. You and your family/friends take the train to the ski regions.

Snow-Clad Cottages Ustaoset Norway
Winter Holiday Cottage Norway

2. You hop on your cross-country skis with all your luggage and walk up to your cottage. If you are a foreigner like me who has never stood on skis before, someone might take your backpack additionally to theirs, because Norwegians are just nice people. And born with skis on their feet.

3. Once you’ve made yourself at home, you go on a ski tour for several hours. If you are a foreigner etc., you learn to fall down. You learn to get up again. And again. And again. You learn how to walk up icy slopes. You learn how scary it is going down icy slopes. And you learn that you, as the slowest of the group, always go first, because you are supposed to set the speed for the whole group. You learn that it feels very uncomfortable being the snail in front of a group of cheetahs. But you also learn that they do not mind, that they are just being considerate of the weakest in the group. Did I mention Norwegians are nice people?

Marie skiing Ustaoset Norway

Ski like Marie! About to ski hard

4. When you get back from the tour (and if you are a ski noob like me, never has a homecoming been sweeter!), you drink hot chocolates and hop in the sauna.

5. After each sauna session you go out naked and wallow in the snow.

6. After the sauna, if it is still daytime, you make yourself a little “nest” in the snow, sit in the sun… and read your påskekrim, obviously.

Reading in the Snow Ustaoset Norway

Sunbathing the Norway way

7. Once it gets dark you prepare dinner together.

8. You light the peis, the fireplace. Then everyone is having it hyggelig, making themselves comfy, chatting, playing, resting or – honorable mention – reading/listening to a påskekrim.

Marie aged 26

Yikes – me at almost half my current age, in 1997

9. There might be some alcohol involved. But I do not remember that well.

10. Next day: Rinse and repeat.

Mountain Cottages Ustaoset Norway

For me, this was not only a great way of diving deep into Norwegian culture. It was also a language boost.

I had asked the group to please not talk English to me, so as to immerse myself fully.

Admittedly, in the beginning, it felt a bit weird to sit there like an Easter Island statue while everyone was rolling in the aisles ‘cos someone had just told the best joke ever. But by the end of the hyttetur, my Norwegian had considerably improved – and so had my skiing abilities.

Ever since, I’ve been keeping up the påskekrim tradition. If you want to check out the current and earlier radio dramas (sensationally well done) of NRK, Norway’s state radio, check out https://radio.nrk.no/podkast/radioteatrets_paaskekrim. Maybe you need a hyttetur to brush up your Norwegian, though.