Nordic Easter Dictionary

Easter is a big holiday in the Nordic countries. The customs and traditions surrounding Easter have its roots in both peasant culture and Christianity. In the peasant culture, Easter was primarily a spring festival, and also associated with a lot of superstition. Nowadays, Easter in the Nordic countries is usually celebrated with a big family dinner, painting of eggs and eating a lot of chocolate.

We have put together a dictionary of useful words for anyone that is planning to celebrate, or simply just wants to know more about Easter in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Hyvää pääsiäistä – Happy Easter in Finnish.
Glad påsk - Happy Easter in Swedish.
God Påske - Happy Easter in Norwegian and Danish.

Gækkebrev:‘Teaser letter’ is a unique Danish tradition that can be traced all the way back to the 17th century. Today the teaser letters is especially common among children. The letters are made by cutting out patterns in paper and then writing a teaser verse, ending with a number of dots, corresponding to the amount of letters in the senders name. If the receiver of the teaser letter manage to guess who the sender is, the sender has to give the receiver an East egg. On the other hand, if the receiver cannot guess who the sender is, he or she has to give the sender an Easter egg. This is a fun little Easter game for everyone - children as well as grown-ups.


Mämmi: A traditional Finnish Easter desert, made from water, rye flour, powdered malted rye, seasoned with dark molasses, salt, and dried powdered Seville orange zest.

Mämmi takes many hours to prepare and after baking it should be chilled for three to four days before eating. It is then served cold with milk or cream and sugar. Nowadays it is more common to buy it ready-made in the store, and it is sold all over Finland and some parts of Sweden during Easter.


Påskebryg: ‘Easter brew’ is a special Danish Easter beer that is produced and sold during Easter. It usually has a higher percentage of alcohol and stronger taste than ordinary beer.


Påskefrokost: Danish word for Easter lunch – a get together with your friends or family on Easter for a real feast that usually last for hours. The Easter lunch is typically served as a buffet and usually includes eggs, lamb, chicken, meatballs and herring.

paskkarring Christer Wahlgren
Photo: Christer Wahlgren

Påskkärring: ‘Easter witch’. According to old folk belief, evil spirits and witches were believed to roam around the country, doing mischief before Easter. On Easter Thursday, it was believed that the witches flew to Blåkulla (The Blue hill) to meet with the devil, and then returned on Easter Saturday. Back in the day it was common to light bonfires in Sweden and Finland to scare the witches away.

Nowadays, children in Sweden and Finland dress up as Easter witches, and go from door to door to wish Happy Easter, usually with home made greeting cards, and in return receive candy or small coins.

In Finland the children bring decorated branches, instead of greeting cards and recite the rhyme: Virvon, varvon, tuoreeks terveeks, tulevaks vuodeks; vitsa sulle, palkka mulle! (In translation: I wave a twig for a fresh and healthy year ahead; a twig for you, a treat for me!).


Påskris: In Sweden and Finland it is common to decorate your house with påskris - birch branches decorated with feathers, painted eggs and other Easter ornaments, usually in the shape of chickens, Easter witches or Easter rabbits. The tradition, however a bit different, traces back to the 17th century, when the head of the household spanked the family members with branches on Good Friday, to remind them of Jesus suffering. The spanking was believed to bring both life and happiness. The tradition of decorating the branches started in the 1930’s.

paskefjalltur vegard kristiansenPhoto: Vegard S. Kristiansen

Påskefjelltur:Easter ski trip’. In Norway is it common to spend the Easter holiday skiing in the mountains, eating oranges and Kvikk-Lunsj (a Norwegian chocolate bar) The snow usually stays until end of April in Norway, making Easter the perfect time to hit the slopes, with warmer temperature, sunshine and snowy hills. The fact that Norway has one of the longest Easter holidays, starting in the afternoon on Wednesday before Easter and lasting until Tuesday morning, also makes it a perfect time for a get way.


Påskekrim: ‘Easter Crime’. Nobody really knows why, but for some reason Norwegians love to spend Easter reading and watching crime and detective stories. Nearly all the TV and radio channels produce a new crime series for Easter every year. The milk cartoons have printed crime stories on them and publishing companies usually releases a series of “Easter thrillers”.

The project ‘Nordic Reading Corner’ is financially supported by The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Belgrade