Our first hint that Easter was here was on Maundy Thursday, Skärtorsdagen in Swedish. Dating back to the 1400’s it was believed that on this day, witches flew to Blåkulla (Blue Mountain) on their brooms to dance with the devil himself. They flew back just in time for church on Sunday morning, to say their prayers backwards. Some traditions tell of these witches stealing milk, with the help of the milk-hare, from other people’s cows (perhaps the origin of the Easter bunny bringing candy). In the late 1600’s, there was an epidemic of witch trials, much like our witch trials in the States. Today, this is celebrated in a playful way by children dressing up as Easter witches in long skirts and headscarves with painted red cheeks and black freckles. They go from door to door looking for candy, much like the American Hallowe’en.
Another Easter tradition is decorating with multi-colored feathers on the ends of birch twigs. In the past it is said that on the morning of Långfredagen (Long Friday or Good Friday) they would lash each other with the birch twigs as a remembrance of Christ’s sufferings. Eggs, the symbol of life and growth, were not allowed to be eaten during Lent when Sweden was Catholic. Thus, it became very popular to dye and eat eggs at this time of year.
Swedes seem to like to celebrate holidays on the eve before the holiday and Easter is no exception. So Easter here is celebrated on Saturday, Easter Eve. Easter seems to be sadly lacking in any religious significance. Some do go to church on Easter Eve, but it is mostly celebrated by getting together with family and friends. Many look forward to family reunions or a much longed for vacation. Candy is hidden in a colorful cardboard Easter eggs for the children to find. There’s a real feeling of the beginning of spring with parties and dinners in the homes of the Swedes, similar to America’s Memorial Day but without parades. For Swedes, Easter and the day after are celebrated by visiting with family and friends.
So, what did we do for Easter? Saturday, we decorated our Easter eggs by drawing symbols of Easter on one side and Christmas on the other side, reminding us that the promise of Christmas is fulfilled at Easter! We choose to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection on Sunday, as we did in the States. Jensina and Jiana woke up expecting to see their Easter baskets, but were sadly disappointed. They woke me (Gwen) up lamenting that the Easter bunny didn’t come to Sweden. I told them that maybe they needed to look a bit harder!! With a couple of hints, they happily found their Easter eggs filled with candy. With a good dose of candy in our blood, we were off to church. Sadly, there was very low attendance. We had a nice Easter dinner together with a couple of friends, which helped us not to miss home quite as much.