Just like Christmas, Easter is a real family celebration in Sweden. The Swedes celebrate Easter somewhat differently than we do. They don’t have an Easter bunny but Easter witches, they play jokes with each other and they also get time off on Good Friday.
Happy Easter in Swedish is Glad Påsk. At Easter, Swedes decorate eggs and hang colored feathers on Easter branches in their homes. And they eat a lot and have a lot of sweets and chocolate.
For those who learn Swedish:
- Happy Easter: Glad Påsk
- Maundy Thursday: Skärtorsdagen
- Good Friday: långfredagen
- Holy Saturday: påskafton
- Easter witches: påskkärringar
- Twigs with colored feathers/easter twigs: påskris
Easter in Sweden: what have witches to do with it?
On Holy Saturday (the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday) the children dress up as Easter witches and go from door to door. They sing songs and hand out drawings. In exchange, they are rewarded with sweets. So the Swedish Easter Witch is a cute version and not a scary witch anymore.
The adult version of the witches at Easter in Sweden goes like this: on Good Friday, the young men gently tap the ladies with a twig until they are offered an alcoholic drink. On Easter Sunday it is up to the ladies to hit the gentlemen with the twigs.
The Easter witch tradition is said to date back to the Middle Ages when hundreds of women were executed in Sweden for witchcraft. It was once believed that the witches flew on their brooms to Blåkulla Island on Maundy Thursday to meet with the devil. On Holy Saturday there are many Easter fires that, according to tradition, were supposed to keep the witches at bay. Nowadays there also often fireworks. The witches returned on Holy Saturday. To make sure there was none in your chimney, you had to burn 9 different branches on Easter Sunday before lighting your fireplace.
Although Easter no longer has any religious significance for most Swedes, the majority of Swedes do celebrate Easter. Like Christmas, it is a real family celebration. The buffet can also be compared to the julbord. Only the julkinken or the Christmas ham has been replaced by eggs. Most of the Easter buffet are egg dishes. Furthermore, herring and salmon are of course there too. Janssons frestelse is also a dish that is often served at Easter.
The Easter weekend is an extended weekend for a lot of people. Easter Monday is an official holiday in Belgium and the Netherlands. On Good Friday, most of us (except for the banks, I think) have to work. In Sweden, that’s different and Easter Sunday, Easter Monday and Good Friday are official holidays. (An overview of all Swedish holidays and public holidays can be found here.)
On April 1, we play jokes. April fools. But in Sweden this is on the Wednesday before Easter. This day is called Dymmelsons dagen in Swedish. The word doesn’t seem to translate literally but would be something like “joke Wednesday”. Hanging a note on someone’s back without them noticing, something that is also popular with us on April 1, is a typical thing for Dymmelon days. When we shout “April fools!”, The Swedes say: “April april din dumma sill, jag kan lura dig vart jag vill“.