With its long, dark and cold winters, it’s no wonder Swedish people look forward to and revel in their Easter celebrations. It is the first sign of spring after all! As with a lot of other traditions, the Christian and Pagan traditions can be seen side by side. Take for example the Swedish påskris (Swedish Easter Trees). These are usually made out of birch branches that are put together and are thought to symbolize the palm tree leaves spread on the ground before Jesus upon his entry into Jerusalem, but is also said to symbolize a witch’s broom. The branches are picked and brought in to the house in the week leading up to Easter and is then decorated with colourful feathers, Easter eggs and little chickens to add colour to the home. After a few days inside, the leaves start to sprout and injects yet another burst of colour into Swedish homes. A påskris is really easy to make and each family has their own favourite decorations for it, similar to the diversity of decorations found in different people’s houses for Christmas.
Another very Swedish Easter tradition is when you see children walking around dressed up as witches. They’re called påskkäringar and can be spotted out and about from Maunday Thursday to Easter Eve. Påskkäringarna go round knocking on people’s doors, wishing Happy Easter, giving out homemade Easter cards and get some coins or sweets as a thank you. Legend says these påskkäringar are on their way to a place called Blåkulla and in the 18th century, it became custom to light big bonfires to scare the witches away. This is still a big part of the Swedish Easter and the bonfires, called påskbrasa, are nowadays used as a way of doing some spring cleaning to get rid of old twigs and branches, as well as signifying that lighter and warmer days are coming.