Sending Gækkebreve

koldinghus_g_kkebreve6In Denmark, the first signs of spring are snowdrops and gækkebreve, lacy, decorated letters/cards sent right before Easter.

It sounds like breakfast pastry or a Viking toast (Gækkebreve!), but think more along the lines of Valentines. Each contains a verse and a riddle (or a verse that is a riddle), along with a couple of snowdrops. Instead of signing one’s name, the sender simply draws a series of dots, one for each letter of their name. So for Susan, I would be • • • • •

Blog SnowdropNow the game begins: Guess who sent the gækkebreve—before Easter—and the sender owes you a chocolate egg. Strike out and you owe an egg to the sender.

Sending gækkebreve began as a courtship ritual in Denmark’s rural communities. Over time the tradition evolved; people exchanged verses with friends and family as well as their sweethearts and began to send them anonymously. By the early 20th century, gækkebreve had transitioned from proposals to a pastime for children, and that’s when Easter eggs rewards were added to the mix.

bukhave_gaekkebrev1Children usually make their own gækkebreve, cutting paper art in classrooms like snowflakes snipped at Christmas. However, from the number of intricate gækkebreve displayed online, I’d say many adults also enjoy the custom. And some (like this green fellow) seem far removed from snowdrops, riddles and chocolate eggs.

Remember, if you’re looking for a candy bonanza this Easter, put on your rhyming cap and grab some scissors—it’s time to send gækkebreve.