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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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!