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In Norway, reading crime stories during Easter is as natural as eggs and chickens. But to the outside world, the «Easter crime» phenomenon is – quite literally – a mystery.

Published: 26 March 2018

Although Easter is crime time in Norway, the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily agree.

Every year the Norwegian love for "Easter crime" ("påskekrim") makes headlines, and tops the lists of strange ways to celebrate the holiday around the world.

Thirst for bloody murders

The British newspaper The Independent calls it "bizarre" while The Mirror writes: "Curiously it's become traditional in Norway to read or watch stories about crime (called Påskekrims) over the Easter period. And you thought biting the head off your chocolate rabbit was weird?". 

The Sunday Times also chuckles over the tradition: "Even the backs of milk cartons offer mysteries that need solving", the newspaper writes.

It's quite clear that the obsession with crime stories during Easter is solely a Norwegian thing. Because although the neighboring countries, just like Norway, are filled with popular writers of Nordic noir, there's no talk of Easter crime in neither Sweden nor Denmark.

“So why do Norwegians thirst for bloody murders during the Easter specifically?”, the German newspaper Die Welt wonders.

To solve that mystery, we need to go 95 years back in time.

A bold idea

It’s February 1923. The two young and broke Norwegian authors Nordahl Grieg and Nils Lie suddenly come up with a steaming idea: To cash in big, they decide to write a catchy crime novel.

The publisher Gyldendal jumps ahead. On Sunday before Easter they launch a major advertising campaign, in which the book's title "Bergen train looted in the night" gets top spot on the front page of the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. The stunt turns heads. The ad is so believable that most people don't realise it's fiction: They believe the train has actually been robbed.

The drama gets massive attention, and the novel becomes a huge success.

"Many consider this novel to be the first Easter Crime, and the very origin of the tradition", Bjarne Buset, Head of Information at the Norwegian publishing house Gyldendal, says.

In the novel we get acquainted with young students skiing from cabin to cabin in the middle of Easter. And the fact that Easter is closely associated with the cabin (hytte), also has its say for the tradition's firm roots, Buset states.


Photo: Terje Rakke/Nordic life - Visitnorway.com

"More than any other holiday, Easter is the time where people head for the cabin on the snowy mountain or near the sea. Here, reading Easter crime goes hand in hand with great skiing conditions and eating a Kvikk Lunsj (a Norwegian version of the Kit Kat chocolate bar) or an orange in the winter sun", Buset says and elaborates:

"Few other countries have as many days off as Norway. The length of our holiday gives great opportunities to read", he says.

A heavily marketed tradition

Just like the first Easter crime novel began as a publicity stunt, the promotion and publicity of Easter crime probably plays a big part in why this bloody pleasure has gained such a strong foothold in the Norwegian society.


Photo: Terje Rakke/Nordic life - Visitnorway.com

"Every year, the media asks 'what’s up' with the Norwegian Easter crime tradition.

The snowball starts rolling, and the Easter crime funnily enough increases its attention. Of course, the publishing industry takes advantage of this, which imprints itself in huge promotion of crime novels before and during the holiday," the publisher says and continues:

"It’s no coincidence that we have a major crime festival just ahead of Easter".


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