Branches have begun to sprout feathers. Small befreckled, teapot carrying witches are at the door demanding sweets. There are tits out* everywhere you look. These signs can only mean one thing – it’s almost Easter in Sweden!
Påsk (which sounds like ‘pohsk’ to my American ears) is already proving to be quite a different celebration than the pagan-Christian mashup celebrated as Easter in the States. We’ve been super EGG-cited to take part in some of the different ways to celebrate Easter in Sweden.
The Feathered Twigs of Easter in Sweden
About two weeks ago the flower shops started carrying bundles of birch twigs with fluffy, brightly colored feathers tied to the ends (påskris).
And yes, this is one of those delightfully traditions that can be traced back to religious roots. The Catholic church was a master of absorbing local rituals and turning them into Holy Observances- it’s kinda key to their staying power.
Once upon a bygone era, the birch branches were used to evoke the story of Christ’s suffering as He was whipped while carrying the cross through Jerusalem along Via Dolorosa to Calvary.
This scene was charmingly reenacted by small children every Good Friday all those (hopefully) hundreds of years ago.
At some point society must have decided letting kids whip each other with switches was perhaps a bit unseemly, so they
stopped the practice entirely added the feathers.
Eventually the tradition moved from tot torment to delightful decoration and now flower shops offer bundles of branches tipped with a rainbow of fluffy feathers.
As in many European countries, its often popular to hang decorated eggs in the leaf-budding branches. In fact my neighbor showed me the adorable decorations she made with her three year old son, combining the traditional feathers with pipe cleaners to create charming little chicks hanging from their branches.
The end result brings a bright and beautiful touch of spring feelings inside, despite plenty of freezing nights and roadside snow still lingering around this time of year.
Easter Witches Hunt for Candy Riches
This section grew very big, very quickly as I tried to fit in everything I’ve learned about the tradition of Easter Witches in Sweden.
For the full story, please check out
Easter Witches – Holiday Traditions in Sweden for Kids…
Although there’s plenty of rabbit imagery to be found in the shops, for some reason Swedish kids are more skeptical than their American counterparts of candy-containing plastic eggs laid in their yards by a giant bunny early Easter morning.
Go figure, right?
Instead, the big draw is on Skärtorsdag (Maundy Thursday – the Thursday just before Easter in Sweden).
According to legend, that’s the day witches take to sky and fly off to dance in an island meadow called Blåkulla (the ‘blue hill’).
To confuse these witches on their fly-by, children all over Sweden transform themselves into tiny and adorable Easter Witches (påskkärring).
Once properly disguised, the little marauders are let loose on the neighborhood.
The idea is that it’s all about knocking on doors to hand out Happy Easter cards, but no one is fooled. For the kids it’s all about the candy they get in exchange.
By the end of the night the danger of witches has passed, and the good children are left to snuggle safely in their beds that night to enjoy sugar fueled dreams filled with magical adventures.
Fireworks and bonfires (påskbrasa) are lit Saturday to frighten off any remaining Easter Witches still lingering about the villages.
Spring Arrives in Sweden!
Four Days Off for Easter in Sweden- Or More!
Between the four day weekend and the comparatively warmer weather, Easter break is a perfect time for many to get out and enjoy the lengthening days and (hopefully!) some sunshine as well.
In fact, I’ve been told it’s so common for people to head off to family holiday cottages in the countryside that Stockholm will pretty much be a ghost town.
Most businesses are expected to shut down or run on reduced hours from Good Friday (Långfredagen or Long Friday because there was nothing to do all day but wait for the fun to begin Saturday) all the way through the Easter Monday after (Annandag påsk, literally ‘another day of Easter’).
For Stockholm schoolchildren the holiday lasts even longer: most schools are out the whole week after all over the city, which means anything child-friendly like parks and kid-geared attractions is likely to be packed with families excited to bundle up and play outside in the sunshine after a long, dark winter.
You’ve been warned!
Get yourself some sweet adventuring gear from the Shop and support GEEKBOLD. Win-win!
We Welcome Warmer Weather?
The last few months have brought near daily flurries, covering everything in a charming-but-stark winter monotone. It’s an unusually high volume of snow that has created a constant, stroller-obstructing thick blanket of white everywhere. Coming from Texas we’ve embraced the chance to play in it.
Sweet Bee & Buddy have cheerfully celebrated each snowfall, catching snowflakes on their tongues and sledding nearly every day. But even they are happy to see the snow melt so they can go outside and play without first having to put on so many layers. Sweden offers an amazing variety of adventure, but with a toddler we’ve often been limited to where a stroller can take us.
Last week the snow has slowly, finally starting to melt away to reveal the color palette of spring. Only the dregs in the shadows and where it has piled especially high are left. And though that latter group includes our backyard, even that is steadily retreating from the sun that shines longer and longer each day.
Swedish Easter Treats
One of my favorite ways to experience a culture is through it’s food.
The last few weeks practically every bakery in the country has been proudly offering hungry patrons a plethora of semla- large cardamom buns filled with whipped cream and almond paste traditionally eaten on Tuesdays during Lent (plural: semlor).
Now the creamy buns are joined by brightly colored Easter treats and festively decorated cakes in a rainbow of colors.
Of course the star of the day is the humble egg and the hundreds of ways you can enjoy them. There’s always the Easter standard deviled eggs (here called fyllda ägghalvor or stuffed egg halves), done up with Swedish staples like caviar, shrimp, smoked salmon, or herring. Imports like Sriracha, curry, or guacamole are also EGG-cellent spins on the tradition. There’s also egg cake, egg bread, and I’ve even heard rumors of an egg coffee that I’m dying to try.
As with many other holidays here in Sweden, the big day is actually celebrated the night before as families gathering around for a very special Påskbordet (Easter table) on Easter Eve.
Expected at the table for Easter in Sweden are the usual standards of the smörgåsbord (literally sandwich table): bread and butter, cheese, smoked and/or pickled fish (often salmon or herring), and of course crispbread (knäckebröd). They join an assortment of hot and cold family favorites like meatballs, chicken, lamb, new potatoes, gravad lax (a cured salmon dish), and fish soup. There’s also the very popular Jansson’s Temptation (I’m planning to make the ham variant of since I don’t think I could convince Bee to try the one with sardines quite yet).
At the store, I’ve seen folks loading up on Påskmust or ‘Easter sap’ – an almost sickly sweet soda also found at Christmas time rebranded as Julmust or ‘Christmas sap’, with a flavor something like adding a cup of brown sugar to a 20 oz of flat A&W root beer. Come to think of it, Påskmust would probably make an amazing foundation for a barbecue sauce…
Unless you’ve gone and eaten yourself sick on sweets, there’s always dessert to feed your sweet tooth. Chocolate cake seems to be a favorite for Easter in Sweden, as is chocolate truffles or an eggy custard.
And of course tons of candy is part and parcel of the day, the same as I grew up on back home in the States.
EGG-streme Sized Easter Eggs and Other Swedish Easter Sweets
In America, entire supermarket rows are devoted to giant cellophaned baskets, little plastic eggs, and rows on rows of big bags of individually wrapped candy.
In Sweden all that candy is stuffed into one large egg for one massively sweet surprise. Near the registers are neat, tantalizing columns of football-sized painted paper or clear plastic eggs filled with candies (påskägg, literally Easter egg).
There’s also plenty of Kinder Eggs and even special popup lösgodis (loose candy; scooped into a bag or even a bucket and priced by weight) in case you can’t make it over to the regular lösgodis setup 5 meters away.
And of course there’s the ever present and familiar chocolate bunny envoys of Easter beloved world-wide.
Our house has mixed but strong feelings about the proper way to eat a chocolate bunny. But c’mon – everyone knows the One True Path towards choco-enlightenment is ears first, right?
What’s your Easter tradition?
I’d love to know what makes this holiday special for you and your family, wherever you celebrate. What favorite foods, crafts, or activities do you look forward to each year?
Please tell me with a comment below!
(especially if you’re on #teamEarsFirst)
A Glad Påsk & Happy Easter to you!