My kids will be on Easter break from Friday. Woo hoo – no more pesky packed lunches for the next week! (For them, school restarts Tuesday 22 April.)
And that – selvfølgelig – means it’s time for a traditional Danish Easter craft: making a gækkebrev – a secret snowdrop letter! For which we’ll need a vintergæk (snowdrop). Though – as we’re well into April – Danish snowdrops have basically gone into hiding again, so we may need to improvise. Now, did you know that gækkebreve are a purely Danish tradition? I thought it was a Scandinavian thing. But no. It’s a crazy Dane thing. And right now, as I type, little kids all over Denmark are sitting at home (or nursery, school, the museum or local library) cutting holes in paper and drawing lots of dots. All in the hope of getting a chocolate Easter egg! More on the logistics of that later in the post… First up, let’s get making one!
- white and coloured paper
- glue or a gluestick
- a pair of scissors
- a snowdrop
Choose a coloured piece of paper for your paper ‘doily’. Fold it in half, then in half again. Draw a rough shape and cut out. If you’ve never done this kind of thing before, keep it simple! The Danes are world-famous for their intricate papercutting. Hans Christian Andersen(you know, the one who wrote “The Ugly Duckling”, “The Little Match Girl”, “The Princess and the Pea”, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, “Thumbelina” etc, etc, etc…) was also an expert at papercutting. I’ve only lived here for 16 years, so I’m still learning…
Open up up the paper and you should have something that looks like this.
Stick it on to a plain white piece of paper. I used a gluestick. And it’s fine if it isn’t perfectly stuck down all over – it just gives it an even better 3d effect
Then you’re ready to write a little poem on it.
Henne bag ved havens hæk, fandt jeg denne vintergæk.
Hej, min hvide lille ven, nu er turen din igen.
Du skal gå til min ven, hviske så kan kan forstå,
han må gætte prikke små, for et påskeæg at få!
But if your family and friends aren’t Danish, you’ll probably want one in English, right? Try this one for size:
Snowdrop, snowdrop, snowdrop fine,
Omen true of hope divine,
From the heart of winter bring
Thy delightful hope of spring.
Guess my name I humbly beg.
Your reward: An Easter-Egg.
Let these puzzling dots proclaim
Every letter in my name
Now listen carefully. [I shall say this only once…] At the bottom of the gækkebrev, DON’T sign your name. You draw a large dot for every letter of your name. So my name, Diane, would be . . . . . If the person who receives the letter guesses who it comes from, you have to give them an Easter egg. But if they can’t guess, they have to give you an Easter egg. So disguise your handwriting and be creative! I usually put in three dots for M.U.M.!
The final touch is to pick a snowdrop from your garden – just draw one if need be – add it to the letter and send to a friend or loved one. And keep your fingers crossed that they don’t guess who it’s from…
God Påske! Happy ……!