We have collected five fun and quirky facts about the way we celebrate Easter in Denmark. Join us in the collections - here is definitely something you did not know about Easter.
We first and foremost associate Easter with the celebration of Jesus and the coming of spring. But do you know why we eat chocolate eggs, for example? Or that Easter is originally not a Christian holiday at all, but Jewish?
1. The Passover celebration comes before Christianity
Easter is the oldest Christian holiday, but the Jews actually celebrated Easter before the time of Jesus. At Passover, they marked the Israelites' liberation from Egypt. You can read about this in the Exodus. Jesus' death and resurrection then happened to take place during the Jewish celebration of Passover. For Christians, the Easter holidays have subsequently come to appear as a mark of the events at the end of Jesus' life - what is called the story of Jesus' suffering.
2. "Dirty eggs" - the ancestors of the chocolate egg
The tradition of eating and decorating eggs for Easter is known throughout Europe and dates back to Catholic times. During Lent (the time just before Easter), it was not permissable to eat eggs, and when Lent ended on Easter Day, it was celebrated, among other things, by eating eggs - preferably many more than one was otherwise used to.
In Danish homes, it was a tradition to eat the so-called "dirty eggs" (hard-boiled eggs in mustard sauce) for Saturday's big Easter dinner. For a long time, Saturday has been called Shit Saturday because on this day, people would remove dirt and grime, and clean and wash, so it is likely from this that the dish "dirty eggs" has its name.
However, the traditional Easter meal, eggs, is still often included as part of the content of the Easter lunch.
As is often the case with old traditions from peasant society, there was also a more down-to-earth reason why eggs were a favorite food for Easter. Throughout winter, the hens laid very few or often no eggs at all. Egg laying is dependent on light, of which there was not much during a Danish winter without electricity. But just like with birds, spring also heralded new egg production for the hens.
That's why we have New Zealand lamb chops on the Easter table
When lamb chops are a traditional Easter meal and when small white lambs are part of the Easter decoration, it is connected with the Bible's mention of Jesus as “the Lamb of God” and the birthing of lamb in the late spring, which could contribute to some good lamb chops on the Easter table.
In the past, Danish farmers kept sheep because they had to produce some good wool and skins. They kept species that lamb in the spring, and since spring in the Nordic countries comes a little later than down south, the lambs were not yet ready for slaughter at Easter time. When many older people today have memories of lambs that tasted of wool, it was probably an older lamb or a sheep they ate.
With the introduction of the freezer in Danish homes in the 1950s, we were able to store imported lambs from New Zealand and Australia, where the sheep lamb in the autumn, and then lamb roasts really started to appear on the Easter table.
4. The witches fly to the Devil's feast on Maundy Thursday night
Today, we mostly associate witches with Midsummer Day, but in the past, witches were also connected with Easter. A number of accounts from 19th century peasant society say that the witches flew to Bloksbjerg the night before Maundy Thursday. If they did not ride on a broom, they could be riding on the back of a magpie. It was therefore impossible to spot a magpie this night, which was also called Saint Magpie's Night.
After attending this annually recurring witch's celebration held by the Devil himself, the witches returned and were thus only gone a single night.
5. The Easter bunny first came to Denmark in the 20th century
We got the Easter bunny from Germany. Until the 1920s, it was seen almost exclusively in Southern Jutland as well as on Langeland and the surrounding islands. When it appeared in the early 20th century, it was primarily as decoration on cardboard Easter eggs or on Easter cards imported from the south. Today, the Easter bunny is most often seen in a chocolate version wrapped in colorful tinfoil.
For many Southern Jutlandic children, the Easter bunny has been a figure much like Santa Claus. The Easter bunny came on Easter Saturday with handsomely decorated eggs, which it hid in various places in the garden. On Easter morning, the children then went on a treasure hunt to find the hare's nest full of the beautiful eggs. They did not find the hare itself, because it was easily frightened and was therefore long gone. The custom has now spread to several parts of the country.