This was the scene this week on a lake in the hills north of Oslo, where spring skiing is usually in full swing during Norway’s long Easter holiday. Not this year. Even King Harald and Queen Sonja abandoned their traditional Easter skiing holiday in the mountains and many Norwegians have been flocking to the coast instead.
Even though many Norwegians take the entire week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday off, the country’s five official holidays were just beginning Wednesday evening. Holy Thursday (Skjærtorsdag), Good Friday (Langfredag), Easter Sunday (Påskedag) and the next day on Monday (2.påskedag) are all “red letter days” on the Norwegian calendar, and most locals take full advantage of the free time.
Tradition calls for spring skiing or boat maintenance, but only the latter is getting much attention this year. With Easter coming late, and the weather turning nearly summery around southern Norway, the snow melted away and Norwegians seemed more inclined to soak up the sun either at home, abroad or at their summer homes.
A local grocery store owner on an island off the coast at Fredrikstad reported a 300 percent increase in business this week, as the summer cottage crowd converged on his shop and prevented him taking any holiday himself. He told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) he welcomed the surprise business, and had never seen anything like it before. April generally remains a relatively quiet month on the islands of Hvaler.
Traffic was light leaving Oslo Wednesday afternoon, unlike earlier years when congestion is heavy as the official Easter holidays begin. It was another indication that many were staying home this year, taking advantage of museums and cinemas staying open, outdoor cafés opening for the season and warm temperatures luring residents out to local parks. Newspaper Aftenposten reported that skateboards had replaced snowboards this year, while gardening centers were getting lots of business. They’re among the few retail businesses legally allowed to stay open during the holidays when most other stores are closed.
King Harald and Queen Sonja, meanwhile, usually spend poster at the royal mountain lodge in Sikkilsdalen, but this year they were spending Easter in the Bahamas, confirmed a spokeswoman for the Royal Palace in Oslo. Aftenposten reported that Norway’s royal couple was visiting the widow of an old sailing friend of the king’s, Diane Symonette, and the king was expected to launch the sailing season while in Nassau.
Crown Prince Haakon was acting as regent in the king’s absence, but the palace wouldn’t say where he and Crown Princess Mette-Marit were spending the holidays. They have a mountain cabin at Uvdal along with two summer homes, one on an island off Risør and another on Dvergsøya off Kristiansand. Or they could stay at their royal estate in Asker, west of Oslo.