Easter (Påsk) is a secular event in Sweden and the fact that many children dress up as witches gives a clear indication that the origins of the spring festival predate Christianity. Folklore alleges that witches flew off on broomsticks to dance with the devil at a legendary meadow named Blåkulla. On Maundy Thursday (skärtorsdag), you'll spot kids with painted faces and broomsticks. Some knock on doors asking for treats, much like American children do at Halloween.
Children dressed up as witches in Sweden. Photo: Ulf Lundin/Image Bank Sweden
2. Giant candy eggs
Whereas other countries make do with branded chocolate eggs over Easter, beautifully painted paper shells are available in Sweden, crammed with candy goodies. Many schools and families organise Easter egg hunts, giving children clues and riddles to help them track the sweets down.
A giant egg filled with eggs. Photo: Lola Akinmade: Image Bank Sweden
3. Real eggs
Swedes are obsessed with dairy at all times of the year but eggs are a breakfast staple over Easter as well as featuring on many a midday 'smörgåsbord' (platter) with toppings including caviar and and shrimp-based sauses.
A Swedish breakfast often includes eggs and fish. Photo: Jakob Fridholm/Image Bank Sweden
Eggs often complement the pickled herring that is at the heart of most Swedes’ Easter meals, while others opt for salmon or dill. Another popular dish is 'Janssons Frestelse' which translates to ‘Jansson’s Temptation’. It is a creamy casserole including potatoes onions and anchovies. All this will frequently be washed down by a glass (or three) of Swedish snaps.
Pickled herring and schnaps. Photo: Joel Wåreus/Image bank Sweden
5. Summer houses
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While most Swedes live in towns and cities, Easter is the first long weekend of the year and for many it provides an excuse to enjoy the country's famous nature. Summer holiday cottages are not just the preserve of the rich in Scandinavia, so plenty of people escape their urban apartments and join relatives for some respite in the forest or by the coast.
Summer houses in Småland. Photo: Tony Töreklint/Image Bank Sweden
6. Feathered twigs
If you're invited to a Swedish lunch at a summer house (lucky you) or elsewhere, you might be wondering why on earth there are vases filled with bunches of twigs covered in feathers. In fact, Swedes have been decorating small birch tree branches like this since the 1800s. These originally served as a reminder of Christ’s suffering and children would pretend to lash each other with them on Good Friday. Nowadays the feathers tend to be brightly coloured and tend to remain on the table.
Feathers at Easter. Photo: Lena Granefelt: Image Bank Sweden