Scandi tip #18: Easter traditions

Sweden has been a Christian country since the Viking Age (that is how the religion travelled so far north) and a protestant country since the reformation in the 1500s. But many people are atheists as well.

Most holidays in Sweden are Christian but based on old Pagan traditions, although we still celebrate some pagan traditions as well as the Christian. A weird mix perhaps, but once you’re used to it you don’t really think about it.

Easter is definitely one of those mixed traditions. The last week of lent (Holy week) (although people don’t really give anything up for lent in Sweden) all the days have different names:

Palmsöndag (Palm Sunday), blåmåndag (Holy Monday), vittisdag (Holy Tuesday), skymmelonsdag (although my grandmother used to call is askonsdagen, Ash wednesday) (Holy Wednesday), skärtorsdag (Maundy Thursday) and långfredag (Good Friday). This week is to celebrate the pain of Jesus on the cross.

But on the Thursday we also celebrate a pagan tradition of little girls (and boys) dressing up like witches (påskkärring) in rags with head scaves, long skirts and painted freckles on their cheeks. They also have a broom stick (of course), a kettle and a black cat. Then the witches take a basket of Easter candy and walk around the houses and trade sweets for more sweets. Our way of trick or treat, I guess. The reason for dressing up like witches is that this is the day when they according to tradition all gather at Blåkulla to celebrate with the devil himself.

Odd, when you think about it that these two contradicting traditions are celebrated at the same time by the same people. But pagan traditions are really rooted and we hang on to them, just like midsummer.

I have no faith really (only on paper) but I do like traditions and what they represent.

Glad påsk! (Happy Easter!)

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3 thoughts on “Scandi tip #18: Easter traditions

  1. Vaaa? Byter godis mot mer godis? Känner jag inte alls igen. Är uppväxt i Stockholm och här byter man påskkort mot godiset. Det gjorde jag när jag var liten, och mina föräldrar (också hemmahörande här) gjorde samma sak.

    Har läst på lite på Wikipedia. Såsom jag har lärt mig är allmänt gällande i Sverige, men det finns lokala avvikelser (som jag aldrig haft någon aning om). Kul att vi fortfarande har kulturella skillnader i samma land. Om fenomenet påskkärringar:

    http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C3%A5skk%C3%A4rring

    1. Ja, vi gick alltid ut med en korg med godisägg och fick roligare godis (dvs mer) tillbaka. Så gick det till i min by i Skåne iaf. 🙂 Men roligt med lokala avvikelser!

  2. Häid Pühi, Hanna! Thank you for a really fun post for a gal born in Estonia and having a paternal Swedish grandmother 🙂 ! Unfortunately cannot understand the obviously interesting exchange above 😦 ! Don’t think there is an Estonian ‘trick or treat’ type situation: I would have loved dressing up as a little witch! And, yes, we name all the days as well – interestingly ‘Good Friday’ translates as ‘Suur Reede’ or ‘Big Friday’. And yes, old and lovely paganisms also occur, mainly in ways of nature worship. Our old religion is called ‘Taara’ and more and more people these days are almost reverting to that.

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