How a ‘fake news’ story inspired a unique Easter tradition

This is one unique Easter tradition. Source: Digital Vision Vectors

What do 'fake news', snow and chocolate have in common? They are the key ingredients to a perfect Norwegian Easter.

It seems appropriate that Norway’s rather unorthodox Easter tradition of crime fiction began in an equally unorthodox way.

Nearly a century ago, on the eve of Palm Sunday in 1923, Norway’s largest newspaper ran a headline which read, ‘The Bergen Line Was Robbed Last Night’. It sent many readers into a panic. People frantically tried to get in contact with loved ones who had been on the train, the train company and the newspaper itself.

But it wasn’t a news story. It was an advertisement; the likes of which had never been seen or heard before. ‘The Bergen Line Was Robbed Last Night’ was a new crime fiction novel by Nordahl Grieg and Nils Lie.

The Bergen line robbed last night!
The front page of Norway's major newspaper the night before Palm Sunday in 1923.

The fact the book itself turned out to not be very good was just a minor detail, for it was the buzz created by the fake news story which infatuated Norwegians and inspired the annual tradition of Påskekrim – “Easter Crime”.

Today this unique fiction genre comes in many forms: books, serialised stories in newspaper supplements, and Radio or TV programs that run the duration of the Easter holiday period. They even can come as puzzles or quizzes.

Although the genre of Nordic Noir is from the whole Scandinavian region, Easter Crime is very much a Norwegian genre that still enjoys popularity.

Reading on Blefjell in Norway.
Reading 'Easter Crime' on Blefjell in Norway.
Gro Siljan Hjukse

Easter Crime’s runaway success since its accidental birth can also be attributed to its suitability for the other great Norwegian tradition (and obsession): the Easter ski holiday.

When readers headed up into Norway’s famous snow-capped mountains to spend their Easters skiing and relaxing, they often took something small and light to provide entertainment during any down time. Hence why a pocket-version of a crime novel was perfect.

Keen to try out the 'Easter Crime' tradition for yourself?

  • A good place to start is with Swedish author, Jens Lapidus, whose crime fiction delves into Stockholm's dark underworld. Lapidus's work is largely inspired by his own experience working as a defence lawyer. 

  • One of Norway’s most prolific crime writers, Jo Nesbo, has achieved international recognition for his thrillers about Oslo Detective Harry Hole. Nesbo's latest novel is a 1970s re-imagining of Shakespeare's Macbeth, set in an industrial town in Scotland where his protagonist is the head of a SWAT team. 

Prefer to listen to your crime fiction? We have just the podcast. 

In a series of conversations with novelists, screen writers, critics and thinkers, Noir Hear This delves deep into the Scandinavian psyche to uncover why Nordic Noir has become a global phenomenon.

In each episode, host Johan Gabrielsson visits a different Scandinavian location to reveal what lies beneath this successful crime genre.

A new episode of Noir Hear This will be available every Wednesday from March 28 until May 16 on the SBS Radio app; Apple Podcasts, Pocket casts, or wherever you get your podcasts.



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