Spring is in the air for this year’s Easter time in Sweden and there’s lots of fun to be had! It’s all about witches, egg hunts, colourful feathers and chocolate.
While in other countries Easter is specifically a religious holiday, it has become a secular one in Sweden. The Swedes are well down in the statistics when it comes to church visits per year, and even if Easter swells the numbers slightly, most people celebrate it at home with their families and relatives.
Many of the practices associated with Easter have religious origins, but this is not something that bothers Swedes much. They eat eggs because they have always done so − not because they have just completed a fast.
Nowadays, eggs are a favourite accompaniment to the dish of pickled herring that is the centrepiece of most Swedes’ Easter meals. And few associate the omnipresent birch twigs − nowadays decorated with brightly coloured feathers − with the suffering of Christ. Easter has its own rituals.
Children dress up as Easter witches; clad in discarded clothes, gaily coloured headscarves and red-painted cheeks, they go from house to house in the neighbourhood and present the occupants with paintings and drawings in the hope of getting sweets in return.
Having consumed all these sweets, they are then given Easter eggs filled with yet more. Parents who are more ambitious let the children search for the eggs themselves in a treasure hunt − following clues and solving riddles until they find their prizes.
A traditional Easter lunch is likely to consist of different varieties of pickled herring, cured salmon and Jansson’s Temptation (potato, onion and pickled anchovies baked in cream). The table is often laid like a traditional smorgasbord (or smörgåsbord as it’s written in Swedish). Spiced schnapps is also a feature of the Easter table. At dinner, people eat roast lamb with potato gratin and asparagus, or some other suitable side dish.