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Påskekrim: Norway's celebration of true crime at Easter

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There is an argument that Easter and death are inextricably linked. After all, the entire point of the holiday is that Jesus was raised from the dead following three days of being entombed, having been crucified and stabbed with a sword. Does that have anything to do with the Scandinavian tradition ‘Påskekrim’ that puts Easter with murder and other crimes? Not really, but at least there’s precedent.

So what does Påskekrim mean? Here’s what you need to know.

What is Påskekrim?

Originating in Norway, Påskekrim quite literally translates to ‘Easter crime’ and that is essentially what this over 100-year-old tradition is all about - except no one’s supposed to be committing any crimes.

Instead, it’s all about enjoying a novel, television thriller or film and as Holy Week is a public holiday in Norway, there’s plenty of time to get comfortable with some chocolate and crime.

How it started

The tradition can be dated back to what was an excellent guerrilla marketing campaign for a crime novel written by Nordahl Grieg and Nils Lie.

On 24th March 1923, the novel’s publisher, Glydenhal, put out an advertisement on Oslo newspaper Aftenposten’s front page. The headline read, ‘Bergenstoget plyndret i nat’, or ‘The train to Bergen was robbed last night’. A disclaimer alongside the headline went largely unnoticed and most of the paper’s readers believed the advert’s headline was in fact a news report. Rumours of the train robbery spread. Bear in mind, Orson Welles didn’t follow suit with the War of the Worlds radio broadcast until 1938 and that convinced people aliens were invading.

The rumour got so much coverage that when people realised it was actually a novel, they rushed out to buy it and it swiftly became a bestseller. Several decades later, Norwegians still celebrate the prank with Påskekrim.


The idea of spending a week holed up with a book extends past the memory of Grieg and Lie’s novel, though and is rooted in the part of Norwegian culture that also holds a close association between Easter and ‘hytte'. At this time of year, it’s traditional for Norwegians to spend time in their cabins. The fact that they also have a lengthy public holiday in which to do so means that there’s just more time available for people to indulge in a good book.

How it’s celebrated today

Regardless of its roots, the tradition lives on, with the association between Easter and a crime novel firmly rooted in the public consciousness.

In advance of the holiday, publishers put out crime fiction, bookshops make space on the shelves for the latest offerings and there is an annual release from Strawberry Publishing of a collection of short crime stories and novellas. There may even be short stories published in newspapers.

And over 90 years later, it’s no longer reserved purely for books, either. Plays are broadcast over the radio and there’s a healthy number of Nordic true-crime podcasts. Crime dramas and films are shown on television and while Scandinavia might have a rich history of Nordic Noir, for Påskekrim, UK television series are popular.

Then there are the whodunnits printed on the side of milk cartons to get the kids involved. National dairy company Tine first started printing them in 1997 and since then, they’ve become an established part of the tradition.

There’s even the bakery that got its Facebook followers to solve the crime of the missing cupcakes.

Crime festival

In the weeks leading up to Easter, you can also expect Krimfestivalen. Held in Oslo, this is the annual crime writing festival that celebrates the grand tradition of Scandinavian crime writers.

Easter and crime may not seem like the most obvious of associations, but 91 years later, Påskekrim is holding on. And who said traditions had to make sense?