Easter is celebrated in different ways in countries all over the globe and so, Denmark has its own traditions. If you’re visiting the country this time of the year and want to be prepared or just want to get an idea of what Danes love to do when celebrating Easter, this guide has everything you need. Gækkebreve, a lot of food, snaps and chocolate eggs are some of the things that are never absent from the Danish Easter.
During Easter, Danes celebrate mostly the arrival of springtime and with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday being national holidays, they find Easter as a good opportunity for a short escape to their summer houses. It’s not very common for Danes to attend church during Easter and there aren’t any special religious events taking place during the holy week. So, don’t expect to see grandiose celebrations like the ones during Semana Santa in Seville or processions like Epitaphio that takes place in Greece on Good Friday.
The weeks before Easter every child in Denmark that wants to get an extra Easter chocolate egg writes and sends gækkebrev. The senders of gækkebreve must write a ‘teaser poem’ on a paper and then sign it with a number of dots equal to their names’ letters. Children are called to use their imagination and cut the paper into different shapes, include a snowdrop (vintergække), which is the first flower of the year, and make sure that their poem rhymes. If the recipient of the letter guesses who sent him the gækkebrev then the sender must give him an Easter chocolate egg and if not, then the other way around. Since usually the senders are children and the recipients are adults, it’s an unwritten rule and almost part of the tradition that the receivers never manage to guess the person behind the ‘fool’s letter’.
Eggs are part of Easter traditions in many countries and Denmark is no exception. Many houses are decorated with fake yellow or green eggs while chocolate eggs and boiled chicken’s eggs dyed in different colours never miss from the Easter lunch table. Many Danes hide chocolate eggs in their gardens for children to find on Easter Sunday, keeping a tradition that dates back to the early 2oth century alive.
Celebrating without a big table filled with delicacies, beer and snaps it’s not a proper celebration for Danes regardless the time of the year. For the Sunday Easter lunch, locals prepare lamb, boiled eggs, herring and other kinds of fish such as salmon. The special Easter beer, which is brewed only this time of the year, is, according to beer specialists, heavier and tastier than common beers so it’s a must to have it on the festive table. Finally, even though Easter lunch starts from early afternoon, all guests have to drink at least one traditional Danish snap. The high-levelled alcohol spirits must be drunk in one gulp after everyone has raised their glasses, yelling, “Skål” and Easter wishes.