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EASTER

Påskefrokost: What are the essentials of a Danish Easter lunch?

For many people in Denmark, the påskefrokost or Easter lunch means getting together with family or friends to relax during a period of extended down time for work. But what are the essential elements of this annual tradition?

lemon cake
A lemon based cake is likely to be served for dessert, but what other treats can you look forward to at a Danish Easter lunch? File photo: Mathias Svold/Ritzau Scanpix

Easter celebrations in Denmark include Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. All of these are national holidays in Denmark and schools are closed, so much of the country enjoys an extended spell of time off (without using annual leave) at this time of year.

Many Danes, however, stretch out the holiday by taking off the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday leading up to the start of the public holidays, meaning the Easter break becomes an extended holiday stretching out for ten glorious days, including the weekends.

While a lot of these days are simply used for relaxing and enjoying downtime, the staple tradition for many families, and in some cases groups of friends, is the påskefrokost or Easter lunch.

Usually taking place on Easter Sunday, the Easter lunch can be drawn out across the day and actually encompass both the afternoon and evening meals. It is interspersed by going for walks in the (hopefully) spring weather, and Easter egg hunts and gækkebrev (a lovingly cut out and decorated letter including a little poem or riddle) activities for kids.

So what can you expect to eat if you are invited to an Easter lunch?

READ ALSO: Five ways to make a good impression at a Danish home

Curried herring (karrysild), a mainstay of Christmas lunches and known for being something of an acquired taste, also makes common appearances on Easter dining tables. The dish is made by combining marinated herring with a dressing of mayonnaise and crème fraiche flavoured with curry spices.

Boiled eggs are the savoury counterpart to all the round chocolate treats probably preferred by most children at Easter, and you are likely to see them served at Easter lunches (where the dishes are typically placed on the middle of the table, with guests serving themselves). Skidne æg (literally “dirty egg”) is a version covered in a mustard and cloves dressing.

Fish fillet with remoulade is a family favourite and includes arguably the national Danish dressing, remoulade, a vinegary mayonnaise-based sauce made using turmeric and pickled vegetables. The fish is usually a plaice (rødspætte) in Danish fried with a breadcrumb and egg coating.

Tarteletter is another Danish classic common at Easter. Possibly the closest thing you’ll get to a meat pie, the ‘tartlets’ are made using open puff pastry cups (which can easily be bought pre-formed in supermarkets if you’re not a pastry expert). The filling typically contains chicken, asparagus, carrots and celery.

Tarteletter. File photo: David Leth Williams/Ritzau Scanpix

These are far from the only, or even the most important, elements of a Danish Easter lunch but they are among the ones you are most likely to see. Sides of rye bread and potatoes will also probably be on the table, as will slices of smoked salmon, possibly a quiche, and perhaps a lamb-based meat dish.

Once you’ve got through all that, prepare to socialise and let your meal go down for a while, perhaps over a snaps or coffee, before going for a walk in the fresh air to liven you up for cakes and desserts.

Cheesecake and muffins could well be on the menu by this time, but two of the most popular Easter time cakes are citrontærte, lemon tart, a French-inspired offering with a dense base and lemon meringue topping; and the citronmåne or lemon moon, a lemon infused sponge with marzipan and icing.

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EASTER

The complete guide to Easter in Denmark

Påskefrokost, gækkebrev, a 5-day weekend and snaps. Here's your complete guide to a Danish Easter.

The complete guide to Easter in Denmark
File photo: Marie Hald/Ritzau Scanpix
5-day holiday
Even though Easter has become less of a religious holiday, on Good Friday Danish flags are flown at half- mast.
 
The Easter period in Denmark includes Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.  These are national holidays in Denmark when schools are closed and most people do not work. 
 
It is worth checking opening times for shops, supermarkets, attractions and restaurants during this period because many close for the whole long weekend.
Most people stretch out the bank holidays and either take the entire first or second week off, meaning the Easter break becomes a one-week long holiday. Many will go to their summer houses or spend time with family so you may find the cities quieter than usual.
 

Tivoli is a fun place to visit over Easter. Photo: Marie Hald/Ritzau Scanpix

Easter decorations
Homes are decorated with easter colours, fresh flowers or branches to hang decorations off. It’s very popular to bring nature into homes in Denmark and around Easter time, homes will be coloured with bursts of yellow, mint green and pale pink.

 
Children bring home Easter decorations such as a small chicken or bunny box with cress seeds.
Easter eggs hanging from a branch.

Easter decorations. Photo: Allan Lundgren/Ritzau Scanpix

Påskefrokost

The påskefrokost, or Easter lunch, is a must for most Danes. Some families have Easter lunches at a restaurant, but most people invite family and friends to their homes.

Påskefrokost lasts most of the afternoon and is a mixture of lunch and dinner (or even breakfast).

The food will include ryebread (of course), eggs, cress, breaded fried fish, different kinds of herring, a variety of cheese, sliced meats and liver pâté (leverpostej). Lamb is also a typical dish for this time of year. 

Easter lunch in Denmark

An example of påskefrokost. Photo: Claus Bech/Ritzau Scanpix

The drinks will include Easter beers. All breweries begin releasing their Påskebryg (Easter brew) in the run up to Easter claiming it to be stronger and tastier than the average beer. 

There will also be snaps, or “en lille en,” a northern European kind of flavoured spirit (could be akvavit), which is drunk in one-go and accompanied by a cheerful “Skåål!” 

If you’re invited to a påskefrokost, remember to bring a bottle of wine or some flowers and arrive on time.

Gækkebrev

Making a gækkebrev (or several) is a standard activity for Danish children. The idea is to design a letter in the basic shape of a snowflake that includes a rhyming riddle and a snowdrop. Children will not sign their names on the letter, but will instead put one dot for every letter in their name.

Recipients then have to guess who sent them the letter. If they guess right, the sender has to give them a chocolate egg. If they don’t guess the sender’s identity, then the recipient has to give the egg. Pro tip: You’ll almost certainly know which child sent it to you but play along and give them the chocolate. 

Danish gækkebrev

An example of a gækkebrev. Photo: Bjarne Lüthcke/Ritzau Scanpix
 
Eggs
Like everywhere else in the world, the egg is a major symbol of Easter, also in Denmark. It symbolises new life and a new beginning.
 
Eggs will be eaten boiled, fried or as a prepared solæg, which translates as “sun egg.” This is a tradition from southern Denmark. The eggs are boiled with onions and the yolk turns dark. The eggs are then put into a salty mixture for at least one week, and then eaten with mustard and chilli.  
Solæg, a kind of hard-boiled egg, is enjoyed during Easter, particularly in South Jutland. Photo: Annett Bruhn/Ritzau Scanpix
 
If you’re a child in Denmark, you’ve been counting down the days until Easter when you get your chocolate Easter egg. 
 
Children look for Easter chocolate eggs in the garden or in parks that the Easter bunny has hidden. They also plays games with eggs. One game is throwing boiled eggs to see who can throw the furthest.
 
Easter eggs in Denmark

Påskeæg. Photo: Kjersti Hjelmen/Nf-Nf/Ritzau Scanpix
 
Decorating eggs is also popular, which you can do by making a tiny hole at the bottom and top of an egg with a needle and blowing out the contents before carefully decorating the shell.  
 
For the professional look, head to Royal Copenhagen’s flagship store on Strøget. They produce a new Easter egg each year in porcelain – it can be opened at the top and filled with chocolate. 
 
However you celebrate your Danish Easter, we hope it’s a good one. God påske allesammen!