If you find yourself in Sweden this weekend, you may be forgiven for thinking that you’ve stumbled into a time warp, transported back to October 31st, with children dressed as witches going door-to-door in search of candy.
But no, look around you and you will see the blue skies of early spring and the flowers making their way shyly through the brown grass of winter. So what’s happening?
The traditional Easter holidays last from Thursday to Monday in Sweden and begin with a candy hunt which bears some resemblance to our own Hallowe’en trick or treating. But the Swedish version is rather gentler and less ghoulish than a modern Hallowe’en. Children dress up in headscarves and paint their cheeks red – becoming “påskkärringar”, or Easter witches – and go visiting house to house. In exchange for giving a drawing or singing a song (always accompanied by the cry “Glad Påsk!” or “Happy Easter”), the children receive sweets. Later that night, according to tradition, the witches will fly to the Blue Mountain, or “Blåkulla”, for a meeting with the devil.
Saturday sees Swedes young and old scouring their gardens and surrounding forest, sometimes with the aid of maps and compasses, in search of eggs – these are the Swedish version of Easter eggs, or “Påskägg”, made not from chocolate but from cardboard and filled with candy. The old adage “waste not, want not” still carries some weight in Sweden, and these cardboard eggs will be saved and reused for the egg hunt for many future Easters!
The other tell-tale sign that you are in Sweden for Easter is the birch twigs (or “Påskris”) decorated with coloured feathers adorning the dining tables and windows of many houses. This tradition dates back to the 19th century and is thought to encourage the arrival of spring as the birch twigs magically sprout their green leaves.
Easter and early spring is a lovely time in Sweden – a time when on the lowlands it is time for Swedes to travel out to their summer houses, which have been closed up and shuttered since the autumn, take forward the garden furniture and do a spot of spring cleaning. Meanwhile, up in the mountains, winter is still very much in evidence with a blanket of snow still covering much of the landscape. It is a wonderful time of year for winter sports – with longer nights and warmer days, just being outside in this winter world is an invigorating and uplifting celebration of life.
Whether you are spending Easter this year in Sweden or elsewhere, our very best wishes for the holiday season.
Best regards and Happy Easter!
The Nature Travels Team
Discover the beauty and tranquility of the Swedish mountains at this time of year on our Spring Winter in the Mountains of Western Sweden experience.