Norway’s Weird 100-Year-Old Easter Tradition Of Crime Fiction

Bingeing on crime fiction may not be your first choice of Easter activity, but it’s high on the list for Norwegians. Tucking into oranges, enjoying the classic Kvikk Lunsj chocolate wafer, grabbing the last chance to ski or heading off for some sun are all popular Easter activities in Norway, but nothing beats the allure of a crime story.

Crime fiction at Easter

Hundreds of thousands of Norwegians indulge in crime fiction novels and Nordic noir TV and film every Easter. Known as ‘easter crime’ (påskekrim), the tradition is just as well known within Norway as it is confusing to visitors.

The latest books from literary heavyweights like Jo Nesbø do battle with Easter crime collections of short stories in bookstore displays across the country.

British detective and police procedural shows are a favorite on TV, although the popularity of Netflix, HBO Max and other global streaming services have given Norwegians a bounty of new international material to choose from.

At the time of writing, true crime hits like Inventing Anna and The Tinder Swindler top the charts in Norway ahead of the Easter season. But crime doesn’t just appear in books and TV.

Since 1997, national dairy Tine has featured cartoon crime stories on its milk cartons in the run-up to Easter. When Tine decided to remove the now traditional stories from the cartons last year, a fierce response forced them into an unexpected u-turn. “Norway, we heard you,” said the dairy in a press release announcing the return.

The origin of Norway’s Easter obsession with crime

You might expect the nation’s obsession with crime fiction at Easter to be the result of a modern marketing campaign, but the origins of påskekrim go back almost 100 years.

In 1923, publisher Gyldendal took out a front page newspaper advertisement promoting a new crime novel based on a train robbery on Norway’s famous Bergen line. So many people mistook the ad for a real story that the book succeeded beyond all expectations when the truth became known.

Ever since then, crime stories have been a feature of Easter. To this day, Gyldenhal is asked to comment on the phenomenon.

The company’s Bjarne Buset previously told Visit Norway that other Easter traditions such as escaping the city to spend time in a mountain cabin help keep påskekrim alive: “Few other countries have as many days off during easter as Norway. The length of our holiday means that we have time to read.”

Vacation to ski—or get some sun

Most Norwegians get three public holidays around the Easter weekend. Many people take the Easter week off to get a run of 10 work-free days at the cost of just three days of annual leave.

This means that getting away from the city is another common tradition. For keen skiers it’s the last opportunity to hit the cross-country skiing trails although this year’s late timing of the Easter holiday may scupper those plans for some.

Others head off on cheap flights to southern Spain. The emergence of budget airline Flyr has created more destination options alongside SAS and Norwegian.

Of course, whether you find a Norwegian on the slopes or on a Spanish beach, chances are they’ll have a crime novel by their side.

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