Swedish Easter traditions really are very different to what I’m used to. For one thing, you can expect children dressed up as Easter hags to knock on your door. They hand over a handmade Easter card and you hand over a fistful of sweets to send them on their way…
Why? Well, before Sweden became Christian, old folklore said that on Maundy Thursday, witches would jump onto their broomsticks and fly away to Blåkulla (Blue Mountain) to cavort with the Devil. The tradition of trick-or-treating while looking like hags or witches neatly connects the ancient folklore with modern times.
This display in a local florist’s just about sums up a Swedish Easter… except for the fact that they have chosen purple as their theme. (Most Swedes go with yellow instead.) You have cheerful witches, chicks and eggs (symbols of fertility and new life) and, of course, birch twigs decorated with brightly-coloured feathers.
These decorated twigs are 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. The burst of colour seems to reflect the joy of spring and the relief that winter is (nearly) over.
So, whether you went wild decorating twigs with joyfully-coloured feathers or not, I hope you all had a wonderful time!