During Easter, Swedes are keen to liven things up with splashes of color after the long winter. Easter has become a secular tradition to most Swedes, as have most holidays with religious origins — it’s not the why, it’s the how. And Easter witches, birch twigs with fluorescent feathers and hand-painted eggs are a big part of it.
Colorful feathers give life to bare branches in Sweden during Easter. Photo: Lena Granefelt/imagebank.sweden.se
Children turned witches
Perhaps what makes Swedish Easter celebration stand out the most in a global comparison is the tradition of the Easter witches. Kids — boys and girls alike — dress up in full color, predominately with aprons, headscarves and red-painted cheeks and go house to house in the neighborhood asking for treats to be placed in their baskets. The recent addition of Halloween to the Swedish calendar has challenged Easter in this regard, but so far Swedish kids seem more than happy to ring their neighbor’s doorbells asking for candy on Easter and Halloween alike.
Trick or treat without the tricks – “Gå påskkärring” means you knock on doors, give away homemade Easter cards and get candy in return. Photo: Lena Granefelt/imagebank.sweden.se
Time to get creative
Eggs, on the other hand, are symbols strictly reserved for Easter. Sure, most Swedes include them for an Easter meal, but kids know how to have more fun than just eat them. It is a popular tradition to hand-paint eggs in different colors to use as decoration. Boiled eggs can be placed on tables, whereas emptied egg shells can be decorated and hung up on strings. Birch twigs with attached colorful feathers make for ideal “hooks” for these painted egg shells — an ideal centerpiece for the Easter table. Egg coloring is also a great way for parents to spend time with their children. Instead of using water colors it is common to either resort to natural food coloring or to boil the eggs together with red beets, onions or any other food that helps dye the eggs a bit closer to nature.
Painting eggs is a popular pastime among Swedish children at this time of year. Photo: Lena Granefelt/imagebank.sweden.se
A smorgasbord of candy
Another great way for parents and kids to share time together is the Easter egg hunt. Eggs made out of cardboard and filled to the brim with candies (or small presents) are hidden away and the kids are then given clues or a map to help them find the treasure. While essentially all families give cardboard eggs to their kids, not all are as keen on arranging the actual treasure hunt, preferring instead to hand it over. An astounding 6,000 tons of sweets are handled over the Easter weekend in Sweden. For a population of nine million, that’s a lot of candy per person. The candies are, of course, also bursting with spring-like color.
Practically everyone goes hunting for eggs, which are made of cardboard and filled with candy. Photo: Lola Akinmade Åkerström/imagebank.sweden.se
Swedish writer Rikard Lagerberg hasn’t dressed up as an Easter witch in quite a few years, but remembers all too well when he as a kid received boiled eggs instead of candy from his confused British neighbors.
The author alone is responsible for the opinions expressed in this article.
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