5 WAYS TO CELEBRATE EASTER LIKE A SWEDE
Glad påsk! The sun is shining (when it’s not raining), flowers are starting to bloom, and it’s really starting to feel like spring! This Sunday is Easter (Påsk), one of my favourite holidays to celebrate, and so I thought I’d reminisce a bit and talk about how it’s celebrated in Sweden!
Påsk has pretty much become a secular holiday in Sweden, and most people celebrate the day at home with family and friends. The majority of shops, schools, banks and offices close for the long weekend as people take the opportunity to slow down, relax and enjoy the beginnings of spring.
While many Swedes celebrate elements of Easter familiar to many other parts of the world – chocolate, eggs, rabbits, chicks – there are definitely a few traditions that are a little (okay a lot) less common outside this Scandinavian country.
Wondering how you can celebrate Easter like the Swedish? Keep scrolling!
1. Decorate with feathers
Decorating shop windows, gardens, and even trees in the park, the colourful twigs with feathers that seem to be everywhere in Sweden this time of year are known as påskris. When we first moved to Sweden, I thought this decoration was a bit silly (I mean, feathers?!), but I’ve come to love this simple but cheery Easter decoration. Easter often arrives in Sweden before many flowers and trees start to bloom, and it’s nice to see the colour after a long grey winter! If you’re in Sweden, twigs can be bought at your local ICA or flower shop, along with an array of brightly coloured feathers.
[Image by Scandinavia Standard]
2. Dress up like a witch
On Maundy Thursday (Skärtorsdagen), children dress up as Easter witches (påskkärringar) and go door to door wishing people a happy Easter – in exchange for candy. This Halloween-like tradition originates from the first Maundy Thursday when Judas betrayed Jesus. It was believed that on this day, evil was released into the world – including witches, who would fly on their broomsticks to Blåkulla, an island where the Devil would welcome them to his court.
So what to do if you’re visited by påskkärringar? Accept any handmade drawing you’re given and exchange it for candy. Wish them a Glad Påsk! and send the witches on their way.
[Image by Ulf Bodin]
3. Pass out giant Easter eggs
In lieu of chocolate bunnies or baskets left by the Easter Bunny, a påskägget is what many Swedes, children and adults alike receive around Easter (unfortunately sans Bunny). These paper or plastic egg are often decorated with pictures of chickens, and are filled to the brim with candy (godis).
4. Skip church
While many other countries celebrate Easter as a religious holiday, Easter in Sweden has become more of a secular holiday. I grew up going to church where Easter saw the highest attendance of the year, so you can imagine my surprise when MacKenzie and I showed up at St. Petri in Malmö (pictured above) 30 minutes early and were practically the first there! We wanted to experience a Swedish Easter service, and while beautiful, didn’t quite have the feeling one might expect coming from American churches.
Though often labelled the least religious country in the world, Swedes still respect the traditions associated with Easter, not necessarily for religious beliefs, but more out of custom. One of the main Easter traditions in Sweden, as in many other countries, is the Easter egg. Eggs are a favourite on Easter tables (påskbord) to eat as well as decorate with. Similar to Christmas, Swedes celebrate Easter the day before, and it is on this day that eggs are painted, candy is given, and families come together to enjoy a good meal.
5. Enjoy the påskbord
Påskbord (meaning Easter table), is the traditional meal eaten on Easter in Sweden and is often had at lunchtime. Eggs, potatoes, meatballs, and pickled herring are staples for any påskbord, together with traditional dishes such as Janssons Frestelse (Jansson’s Temptation) and, of course, snaps. For dinner, lamb is often prepared, as is common in many other countries.
Are you surprised by any of these traditions? Would you consider adding pickled herring or another Swedish food to your påskbord? Let me know in the comments!