Easter In Sweden

Easter celebrations in secular Sweden are comparable to Christmas for the secular American.  While some attend church on Easter Sunday, for a majority of Swedes many of the celebrations have little to do with Christian beliefs.  Easter is a big deal in Sweden and the entire country partakes in their holiday traditions.   We were in Sweden weeks before Easter, but signs of it were already everywhere.   The Swedes seemed to look forward to Easter as a sign of spring.

I asked a nice lady at the National Museum gift shop about branches with colored feathers attached to them.  In the 12 hours I’d spent in Sweden, I’d seen them countless times.  She explained to me that Easter in Sweden is kind of like Halloween in the US.  In Sweden, children dress up as witches, paint their faces, carry brooms and knock on their neighbor’s doors for treats.

The schedule is a bit different than in the US.  Many of the traditions predate Christianity and were incorporated into Easter celebrations over the years:

  • Palmsöndag (Palm Sunday) Instead of picking up palm leaves or other branches from the church, Swedes pick up pussy willows.  They are also used as an Easter decoration.
  • Svarta måndag (black Monday) is when chimneys were traditionally swept.
  • The Thursday before Easter, Skärtorsdag (Holy Thursday), Swedish children dress up as påskkärringar (witches) and go trick-or-treating…well, sort of.   Skärtorsdagen is the day of the Last Supper.  Swedes considered it a dangerous day to be out, because the old spirits were let loose.  The night was a time for the devil, who wanted you to sign a contract exchanging for riches for your soul.  Hence the witches…

  • Good Friday is more appropriately named in Swedish Långfredag – Long Friday.  No fun may be had on this day (to mourn of the crucifixion of Christ).  In fact, public entertainment was prohibited until 1969.   The fun recommences on Saturday morning.
  • Saturday night is Påskafton (the Christmas eve of Easter), a day for feasting and eating.  Families sit down to dinners of eggs and lamb, representing the fertility of the spring and the rebirth of the year after the long winter.   They also have special crackers and exchange cards.  Traditionally children make drawings of witches, chickens and eggs accompanied by a few words.  In the late afternoon, bonfires are lit in many areas to scare off the evil influences.
  • During Easter week in Sweden, it is taboo to get married or baptize a child.

By the way, Swedes also have beautifully decorated Easter eggs, both decorative and edible.

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Escalade

No, I’m not talking about a giant SUV.  I’m talking about a pretty cool party. Geneva’s Escalade commemorates the Protestant city of Geneva‘s defeat of the Duke of Savoy‘s Catholic troops in 1602.
I’m not really sure, but these might be Geneva’s version of Paul Revere?  If you’re going to visit Geneva, this might be the best time to do it.  It’s a really cool festival that’s part spectacle, part party and very accessible.  You’re in the middle of it so you’ll experience it with all of your senses.  The sounds of drums and fifes echoed through the city walls, while the smell of mulled wine (vin chaud) wafted through the air.

Here’s the deal. Charles Emmanuel I the Duke of Savoy wanted Geneva’s wealth. Genevans wanted their independence.  Many of them were religious refugees and would have had no where safe to go if Geneva had fallen to Catholic France. They also wanted to keep their money instead of giving it to the Duke.

When the Duke’s troops attacked, grandma threw a pot of boiling soup over the city walls as they attempted to climb them.  She then woke up the city so that it could defend itself.  Pretty much, they celebrate not their city not being overtaken by the Savoy and not becoming part of France.

It’s historic in the best possible way.  They have parades.  The old town is lit up by people carrying torches.  They really did fire the muskets!  They were so loud.  It scared the heck out of me… and the kid next to me.  They fire cannons too.  People dress up in period costumes.  Some are even on horseback.  The Passage de Monetier, a secret passage in Geneva’s old town is open for only this one night.
How do you celebrate grandma’s victory?  In the most quintessentially Swiss way. Chocolate!  They make giant tureens (cauldrons) of chocolate with marzipan vegetables (to be like granny’s tureen of soup).  Stores like Migros and Co-op sell the “vegetables.”  I bet it’s really easy to get kids to eat these vegetables.  They also have tasty street food and (of course) mulled wine.

Children dress up in costumes, kind of like they would in the US on Halloween.  We didn’t see any risqué costumes like you do there.

The cannon was louder than the muskets.  Unfortunately, there are not enough occasions where shooting off a cannon is permitted.  If you can get away with it, it definitely says celebration (or attack). There’s also a race/run that takes place weekend of or preceding the night of the 11th It usually starts in the  Parc des Bastions, where the Savoy troops congregated before attacking the walled city, and goes through Geneva’s old town, before finishing near the start. It’s a big deal here and everyone gets involved; you’ll even see families and running together.   There’s even a youth race and a costume run.

*Escalade translates from French into English as climbing.

 

 

Happy Halloween!!!

 

Charlie Brown: Hey! I got an invitation to a Halloween party!
[dances happily]
Lucy Van Pelt: Is it the invitation to Violet‘s party, Charlie Brown?
Charlie Brown: Yes. It’s the first time I’ve been invited to a party.
Lucy Van Pelt: Charlie Brown.  If you got an invitation, it  was a mistake.  There were two lists, Charlie Brown.  One to invite and one not to invite.  You must have been put on the wrong list.

We were invited to a fantastic Halloween party this weekend (the explanation for the invitation is above).   The hostess with the mostest made “scary food” that was very tasty.

Lady J’s Coconut Macarons
Lady J’s Black Truffle Macarons
They also requested people send in old photos of themselves in costume.  This made for a very entertaining slide show that ran all evening.  In addition to embarrassing shots of ourselves (which I won’t be posting) I sent a cute one of the pups in their reindeer costumes.
Costumes were encouraged and people did not disappoint.

It’s The Little Differences – Halloween Version

One bag’s worth of candy

Top Ten Ways Halloween is Different in Switzerland:

10.  Smaller bags of Halloween candy.  There are 10-20 pieces per bag and each bag costs a lot more.

9.    You have to search hard to find the candy.  It’s not like the US where they sell it everywhere.  There are aisles of chocolate bars in the grocery stores.  Finding individually wrapped candies suitable for your Halloween candy bowl is another matter.  For example, I do not think it is appropriate to hand out individually wrapped candies containing cherry liqueur to children.

8.    Costumes are scary and supernatural-themed (witches, zombies, vampires, brains, blood, guts, etc.).  You don’t see nurses, TV/movie characters, famous people, cartoon characters, superheros, etc. The Rocky Horror Picture Show may be lost in translation.

7.    No trick-or-treaters.

Sally Brown:  Do I get to go trick-or-treating this year big
brother?
Charlie Brown:  Sure, Sally.
Sally Brown:  Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!  How do we do it?
Lucy Van Pelt:  All you have to do is walk up to a house, ring the doorbell and say “Tricks or Treats.”
Sally Brown:  Are you sure it’s legal?
Lucy Van Pelt:  Of course it’s legal.
Sally Brown:  I wouldn’t want to be accused of taking part in a rumble.

I am Lisbeth Salander from “The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo“; he’s in Leiderhosen. 

6.    Halloween is not a huge holiday here so you get strange looks riding the tram or walking down the street looking like this.  I found it helpful to wish everyone who looked at me strangely a “happy Halloween”.  It usually elicited a smile.

5.    No pumpkin spice lattes.  We may have to bring some back with us.  I have become fixated on it.

4.    You might be disappointed with your Snickers after getting used to Swiss chocolate.  I suspect this aspect of reintegration will be difficult.

3.    No pet costumes.  If I happen to see a St. Bernard (or any other dog) in costume, I promise to whip out my camera and post it for you.

2.    Here, pumpkins are for eating.  It is hard to find carving pumpkins here and there are definitely not any pumpkin patches.  For that matter, I haven’t heard of any cider mills either.  Great, now I’m starting to fixate on apple cider too.

1.    No “It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” on TV.   Thank goodness our awesome family sent us the book.

Happy Halloween!  Eat, drink and be scary!

 

We’ve Got Mail!

We got mail!  Getting the mail, however, is an entirely different matter.  To get the mail, I have to go to the post office, present both our passports and our marriage license.  Yep, you read that correctly.  They will not give me anything without proof that we are married.

I expected something from the bank and squealed when I saw it was a care package.  The nice lady at the post office thought it was interesting and asked all about my nieces who sent it.  She laughed when I told her it contained Halloween candy (I read the customs declaration on the outside of the box).  It’s not a huge holiday here like it is in the US.

WARNING!!!! If you are thinking about sending us a care package, perhaps you should consider emailing photos. I am sure the sender got a rude awakening when they saw the price at the post office (FedEx is even more expensive).
We used the cooler that evening!  This stuff rocks!

The box contained Halloween candy, Detroit Lions gear, some great books (the sender always has a good read on hand), halloween decorations and the best part pictures from our nieces (which went immediately on the fridge).

The pictures are already up on our fridge

Thank you!!!!!

I told you she had good taste in books!

 

The Scariest Post Ever – Me With Clippers

Just in time for Halloween, we bring you the scariest post yet.  He hasn’t had a haircut in over 2 months (not scary).  This is not some new cost-saving measure brought about by high Swiss prices.* He has been working so much that the barber shops are closed by the time he leaves the office.  They close at 7:00 p.m.  He just hasn’t been able to sneak away early to get a cut.  We haven’t been in Geneva most Saturdays and everything is closed on Sundays so those days have been out.  It was driving him nuts so…

I got out the clippers to do a touch up.  Very scary.  For some reason, I look just a bit too excited.
 
I blurred our laundry hanging dry

When we first were married, we were really, really broke. To save money, I tried cutting his hair a couple of times.  After two attempts, we decided that no matter how broke we were, it was better for our marriage if we just sprung for his cuts.

I don’t have any pictures of the actual trim because I was concentrating so hard.  I couldn’t have handled doing anything else.  Check out the finished product.  Doesn’t it look a bit neater?
The finished product from the front

He is looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6:00 a.m. the next morning as he gets ready to head off to a big day at the cracker factory.  While I definitely don’t have a career as a stylist in front of me, he is sporting a better haircut than I am!

*We did have a guy friend pay +/- 90 CHF ($103) for a trim.