Swedish Ways: Påsk

Glad påsk!

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In Britain, Easter seems to only mean two bank holidays, chocolate eggs and Biblical adaptations on telly. In Sweden, aside from the extra days off work, the chocolate eggs and Charlton Heston, you would – at least when I was growing up – eat boiled eggs which you had painted in one way or another. Some days before, you would have brought in birch twigs and adorned it with coloured feathers and little egg-ornaments and things. Think tabletop Christmas tree and you’re on the right lines. If you made sure to put water in the vase (and marbles to weigh it down so it wouldn’t fall over), the twigs would sprout little green leaves in the indoor warmth, and if you’ve never smelled opening birch leaf buds, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Here in the UK, you get big chocolate eggs. We didn’t back home. There, you would more likely have a cardboard egg with a nice print, or coloured tinfoil with a ribbon, and fill it with pick and mix candy. Sure, there would be eggs there as well. My favourites were always the tinfoil-wrapped chocolate nougat eggs, and my sisters and I were never keen on those brightly coloured, sugary, foamy type eggs we would inevitably get given every year, despite our objections. Much better to ask the question what sort of candy you like than be given candy you don’t like. Sweden vs pick and mix, by the way, is a topic for another Saturday!

Easter used to be an occasion, like a Christmas light, and we often spent it with the same family we spent New Year’s with. No Easter egg hunts, but rather a sit down buffet style meal – with added boiled eggs. Once, I got a soft-boiled egg that was hardly congealed at all and that put me off boiled eggs for years.

Anyway. In the evening, there’s sometimes a bonfire and normally, fireworks. To ward off witches, see. In the daytime, you would have kids dressed up as old women (påskkärringar) and men (påskgubbar), delivering Easter-themed drawings (påskbrev) they’d made in return for candy. I suppose the påskkärringar meant to be witches, because witches fly to Blåkulla over Easter. Blåkulla is a fictional mountain, where witches went to consort with the devil. (Compare Blocksberg in Germany.)

So yeah, Easter in Sweden is more about chickens, feathers, eggs, candy and witches than bunnies, chocolate and hot cross buns. Glad påsk!

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