The witches of Easter

In England, we celebrate Easter with bunny rabbits and chocolate eggs. In Sweden, they associate Easter with birch twigs, gaily-coloured feathers and … er… witches! Oh – and eggs: but not chocolate ones. Swedes eat real eggs – lots of them – as Easter is an egg-cellent season for the consumption of white and yellow spherical objects. It marks the time when people used to fast and then broke their fasts by eating eggs, which had been forbidden during Lent.

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Apart from eating eggs, they give each other paper eggs that are filled with sweets and marizpan chicks. We usually have a big Easter egg hunt where we hide masses of small chocolate eggs in the woods for the local kids to find: but this is our tradition and not really a Swedish one.

Superstitions always attach themselves to major religious holidays, don’t they? And Easter is no exception. In ye olde days, Swedes believed that covens of witches flew away to Blåkulla (Blue Mountain) on their broomsticks on Maundy Thursday in order to cavort with the Devil. Which is why – nowadays – young boys and girls dress up as Easter witches and come knocking on the door in a sort of trick-or-treat manner. They give you home-made Easter cards and in return, you give them something good to eat.

witches_2

Whoever said that trick-or-treating was only for Halloween?

Apart from being surprised by witches knocking on the door when I first came to Sweden, I was also confused by all the birch twigs that people decorated their homes with – usually tying lots of brightly-coloured feathers to the twigs, or to the trees and bushes in their gardens. The burst of colour seems to reflect the joy of spring and the relief that winter is (nearly) over.

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This is a throwback from more religious times when young people used to lash each other with birch twigs on Easter Friday as a reminder of Christ’s sufferings. Decorating twigs with feathers dates back to the 19th century and was a way of ushering in the spring.

So, whether you are going to celebrate with twigs, church or a dusterful of feathers, have a happy Easter!

And now.. please excuse me! I’ve got a bunch of witches at the front door…

33 thoughts on “The witches of Easter

  1. I feel so bad, i haven’t decorated at all for Easter…there isn’t an egg, bunny, chick, or feathered birch (which they do here also) in this house…NOTHING. How horrible am I?? I even asked my kids this year if I had to continue making them individual eggs or could I just make one big egg since the they are old enough to have figured out who the Easter bunny is….hmmm…what has happened to me????? I use to decorate for everything and now….nada…
    They don’t do the witch thing here but at Christmas there is something similar to trick or treating…they dress as elves or santas and knock on doors, sing a Christmas song and in exchange expect something good. Julebukk is what they call it.
    Enjoy your Easter and your eggs!!!!

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  2. Ah, well, that explains the mysterious broomsticks and chicks together at the shopping mall at Vasteras last week!

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  3. I had no idea the twigs had to do with Christ’s suffering. I sometimes forget about his suffering and think more about the present-day suffering of the chickens, lambs and everything else people feel compelled to take apart and eat or use for decoration 😦 Though I hear there are synthetic feathers. I’ll be celebrating with lots of chocolate… Mmm chocolate.

    Please let me know if you wanna do the Pay it forward!! (come on! 😉 )

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  4. How interesting. I seem to keep bumoing into devilish things at the moment. But I dont think I would be very safe on a broomstick!

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  5. This is awesome! Trick-or-treating is on of my favorite things, followed closely by dressing up. I love the Easter-treating and wish that we did something similar in the US… I always assume that because the original settlers were European that our traditions would be more consistent… Wrong as usual!

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  6. Interesting to learn about other countries take on holidays. I had no idea. And at first I was thinking that the broomstick in the photo was a baseball bat. Had to look twice.

    Happy Easter.

    Jen

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  7. So interesting. Those little girls are precious. They’re the pretties, happiest looking witches I’ve ever seen.

    I imagine the paper eggs are fun to open – each a little present. The photo of the Easter goodies is making me hungry.

    Have a lovely Easter holiday!

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  8. That was incredibly fascinating! I loved this post! I did not know why my little easter egg tree looked that way and now I do. I also did not know about trick -or- treaster! 🙂

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  9. How do you get to be such an old broad and know so little about so much? Thank you for enlightening me. What sweet faces on those precious little “witches!” lol

    And I never knew about the feathers, and lashing. Makes me want to contemplate Christ’s sufferings on our behalf. Thank you for the reminder. 🙂

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  10. What cool traditions! And Swedish chocolate is the best! We used to have an exchange student from Sweden. We were so happy when she came. Japanese candy just isn’t good.

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  11. ladyfi – That is just so interesting – and I never knew that – Why don’t we get Witchy things at IKEA?!

    Only kidding, of course… but I usually always dress up on the Eve of All Hallows in my witch’s hat and have my broom at the ready – So you’re telling me I can legitimately do that twice now – But only if I move to Sweden… Save me a spot on the ‘plane that man!!!

    Love to you for a bewitching weekend, and thank you so for all that you are so selflessly doing for Braja’s injured driver – You are a pure soul xxx

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  12. See? I was just talking about how little I know… and then I read this!
    My grandmother used to decorate little branches with feathers and things, but all she knew was that the orphanage where she grew up, did it. Hmmm… that might be a clue to tracking down the family history, eh?

    Those little witches are adorable!!

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  13. The little man loved the idea of another excuse to dress up – witches at Easter – an excellent idea. We have a house full of Easter decorations – comes from living in Brussels for five years where branches were decorated with feathers and little decorative eggs just like in your photo.

    Also, painting real eggs – we spent hours yesterday hard boiling some and then trying to suck some eggs (not easy) and then decorate them with special designs – another Belgian custom.

    It’s lovely to hear how other countries celebrate Easter. Your Easter tree is lovely by the way!

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  14. That is really interesting! I didn’t realize that!! How fun! And I love the twigs and feather thing. But much more of the symbolization and not so much lashings on Easter! 🙂 Happy Easter!!!

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  15. I love hearing about other traditions. We do the traditional American easter at my house. This year my children are almost 2 and almost 3. They get it. I can’t wait for the two easter egg hunt, and when they wake to their easter baskets. I feel the holidays are so much sweeter with babies to share it with.

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  16. Kids never get too big for Easter Baskets. Both mine asked me if the “Bunny” knew where they were going to college! The Easter Basket has become an Easter Box now that they are in their 40’s andl iving in different, distant states, but they look forward to the “Rabbit” hopping along the postal routes every year.

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  17. Interesting facts…
    Many I never knew.
    Especially the birch sticks used to lash with.

    We here in Oz really don’t do much decorating for Easter.
    The Easter Bunnies visit is the big Thing and Palm Sunday services.
    We today are eating Hot X buns for breakky.
    However spent it is Atime to celebrate and remember,
    Happy easter to Y’all

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  18. I had no idea that there were so many different ways to celebrate Easter around the world. That shows you the depth of my travels!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and have a happy halloween, I mean Happy Easter! (I’ll be stopping by again!)

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  19. I love learning about all these different holiday traditions. So cool! And if my husband ate all those eggs, I couldn’t breathe! They make him get the nastiest gas in the world! I’m glad for that reason I don’t live in Sweden!

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  20. God Påske from Denmark!
    I love hearing about all the ways to celebrate our holidays!
    Even in Scandinavia, we have a variety of ways….

    thanks for sharing!

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  21. I´m a little bit late, but I found this really interesting! I hope you had a good holiday with your loved ones and didn´t have too many witches “spook you”. 🙂

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