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Easter’s true detectives: Bizarre Norwegian tradition of reading crime stories and detective novels during Easter

Goran Blazeski

The Scandinavians sure know how to celebrate the arrival of spring and Easter after a long and harsh winter. Although Scandinavian countries are alike, their cultures and traditions seem to be unique, and every country in Scandinavia has its specific Easter traditions.

Eggs and bunnies are just as popular in Scandinavia as they are in the United States, but a touch of Viking paganism also colors the Scandinavian Easter traditions.

 

Nordahl Grieg, co-writer of  Bergen train looted in the night

Nordahl Grieg, co-writer of  Bergen train looted in the night

There are many Easter traditions that can’t be found anywhere else in the world and among them is one quite peculiar tradition in Norway.

This special tradition focuses on reading crime stories and detective novels during the holiday. There isn’t any sound theory which would prove the etymology of this Norwegian Easter custom. However, it is believed that it goes back to 1923 when the Norwegian poet, Nordahl Grieg, and the writer Nils Lie wrote a book entitled Bergen train looted in the night.

They started writing the book in February 1923, and once it was finished, Nordahl and Nils came up with a perfect advertising plan. Their master solution was to advertise the book by printing the title on the front page of Norwegian daily, Aftenposten, during the Easter of 1923.

The title appeared on the front page of the national newspaper as headline news rather than a publicity stunt. People rushed out to buy the book and the railway-heist thriller Bergen train looted in the night became an instant success, and the tradition of påskekrim – translated as ‘Easter Thrillers’ began.

In 1924 more publishers focused on crime novels during Easter time and as years passed by, the Easter Thrillers became a vital part of the Easter traditions in Norway.

 

Sherlock Holmes, right, hero of crime fiction, confers with his colleague Dr. Watson

Sherlock Holmes, right, hero of crime fiction, confers with his colleague Dr. Watson

The sale of mysteries increases up to 50% in this period of the year in Norway, so many publishers move the dates of publication to spring. The TV stations, radio, and newspapers also want a piece of the pie known as påskekrim, so they run detective series around Easter. Additionally, little crime puzzles are printed on the side of some milk cartons.

Read another story from us: The origins of the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs

Norway has the world’s longest Easter holiday, so workplaces are closed over Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Second Easter Day. This is a great opportunity for many people in Norway to celebrate Easter on a mountain trip. This is also a part of their Easter traditions, and it includes watching the sunrise, skiing, eating oranges and of course, reading a good crime novel.