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Photo courtesy of Øyvind Helliesen
Easter, Norwegian style

In this issue of Interpreter, we spoke with several U.S. churches about how they would be affected by such an early Easter as the one we will experience this year.

Øyvind Helliesen, a district superintendent in Stavanger, Norway, also shared how Easter is celebrated in his country:

Easter doesn't have the same strong position among Norwegians as it has in the United States. Christmas is the only celebration that still has a strong meaning for the Norwegian people.

A few churches celebrate sunrise service, but that I don't know of any United Methodist churches that do.

For most Norwegians, Easter is vacation time. The kids will be out of school from the Friday before Palm Sunday, until the third or fourth day of Easter. A lot of adults will also take vacation in the "silent week" (the week before Easter) and everybody vacations from Maundy Thursday until the second day of Easter.

During Lent, Stavanger UMC decorates a cross made from two Christmas trees with Easter symbols. Photo courtesy of Øyvind Helliesen
It means that most people are going to their cottages, either for skiing in the mountains, or to meet the spring along the coast side. In the most popular skiing areas, the Lutheran Church offers worship services some of the days of Easter.

Even with the early Easter, it is not affected by the long periods without sun. It is only in the part of Norway north of the Artic Circle that the sun is gone, and even then they are only without sun from the end of November to early January. In the south we have sun the whole year, and we usually have no snow, but a lot of rain.

In my area of the country Easter is connected with springtime. In the local church that I served for 18 years we tried to "win back" the Easter celebration, and we discovered that there were still many people in the city during Easter.

Our Easter program started out during Lent. We had a cross in the front of the sanctuary, made of two Christmas trees. Every Sunday we placed some symbols on it, either connected to the time of fasting, or to Easter.

Our first worship service was on Palm Sunday, built around the events when Jesus rode into Jerusalem. We usually have children with green leaves. On Maundy Thursday we invited the congregation to an evening meal instead of regular worship. After eating together, and sharing testimonies, we celebrated communion around the table. On Good Friday -- in Norway we call it the "Long Friday" -- we celebrated "Passion Worship." In this service, reading the different texts about passion and crucifixion is central.  

Easter day we hosted a breakfast in the church, before worship. We decorated with yellow flowers, butterflies, eggs, green leaves and more.

In the warmer southern part of Norway, it is common to have Easter services outdoors after a nature walk. Photo courtesy of Øyvind Helliesen
On the second day of Easter we invited the congregation on a walk. We often went to the beaches, or to other surrounding nature areas. We called it a "pilgrim walk," and started out with a small worship -- singing a song and reading the Emmaus text. We ate together before walking back.

A special Easter tradition in my area is going to the coast/beaches to boil Easter eggs. Other areas that still have snow have different traditions.


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