In 2021, Easter will look a little different from usual as everyone should limit socialising under national measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus, and some of the activities below would need to be adapted.
For the majority 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 (‘blue hill’), which Swedish parents are completely unfazed about their children re-enacting.
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: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
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2. Fake paper eggs in supermarkets
Whereas some countries have chocolate eggs over Easter, in Sweden you don’t eat the Easter egg itself, but instead it’s usually a beautifully painted paper shells crammed with candy goodies (påskägg). Many schools and families organize Easter egg hunts, giving children clues and riddles to help them track the sweets down.
“Can I interest you in this fine Easter egg, sir?” Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT
3. Real eggs everywhere
Swedes are big dairy consumers most of the year but eggs are a breakfast staple over Easter as well as featuring on many a midday smörgåsbord or påskbord (Easter buffet table) with toppings including caviar and and shrimp-based sauces.
A Swedish Easter breakfast. Photo: Noella Johansson/TT
4. Fish, pickled
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.
In case you were wondering, yes, this is exactly what Swedes eat at Christmas as well. And Midsummer. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Pickled herring. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
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.
A summer house in the Stockholm archipelago. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT
6. Feathered twigs
If you’re invited to a Swedish lunch at a summer house or elsewhere, you might be wondering why on earth there are vases filled with bunches of twigs covered in feathers (påskris).
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 are brightly coloured and tend to remain on the table.
Feathers at Easter. Photo: Lena Granefelt: Image Bank Sweden
Påskmust is like a sweet, spicy root beer containing hops, sugar, malt aroma and spices, and no alcohol. It’s an essential component of any Easter-time meal.
It is the Easter version of julmust, the Christmas drink that far outsells Coca Cola every December. Every year Swedes debate whether the two beverages taste the same (they do).
Julmust, no wait, påskmust. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT