For a country with a steeply declining church membership and where surveys indicate that between 45 and 85% state they are nonbelievers, Swedes sure make a meal out of Easter. I recall as a kid seeing my Catholic friends getting Good Friday off from school after lunch and then everybody hunting for easter eggs on eating chocolate rabbits on Sunday with a nice dinner of ham, but that was the extent of Easter as I knew it. The best part of Easter was that it always coincided with a week off from school, nine days free including the two weekends.
Here in Sweden, Påsk as it is known (pronounced “pawsk”) is a four day affair with spring break occuring during another time. Swedes not only take Friday off but also Easter Monday, which is called Annandags Påsk (second day Easter).
As at Christmas, there are decorations, though not nearly as many as I saw at Christmas time. The main ones I saw were colored feather on trees or in vases in homes.
From other decorations and traditions here it is clear that Påsk predates the Christianization of Scandinavia by a long ways. In fact the basic Easter tradition surrounds witches who would fly on their brooms to consort with the devil on his blue mountain (blåkulla). Farmers would light fires to scare the witches away or shoot rockets or guns in the air. Children dress up as witches, carry brooms and go from house to house seeking treats much as on Halloween.
Decorations include witches, black cats and roosters as you can see here at Mariette’s parents house.
Have not seen any Easter bunnies so far, though I am told they exist. It is mainly chickens, roosters and eggs here. Not so many bunnies.
Other more familiar signs of Easter do exist here, such as painted Easter eggs, chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs. It seems more to be a celebration of spring than the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, though a few people do go to church on Easter morning.
Easter lillies abound in the markets and homes.
Here in the deep south, flowers are beginning to come up and I noticed buds on some trees today. Last year temperatures were in the mid 70s for Easter. Today we hit the trifecta of bad weather: cold, wind and rain. It was probably as bad a day of weather as we have had since we moved here. No big deal. It will be sunny tomorrow, if still windy.
From what I can tell, Easter seems to be about Spring. The traditional meal for påskafton (Easter Eve) is lamb. I don’t know what occurs on Easter Monday but I am guessing that the golf course will be packed and if not raining people will be working in the yards getting ready for spring planting.
Another four day weekend is coming in May to celebrate the Pentacost (or, more probably, to break out the sun tan lotion).
None of this gives me great insight into the Swedish soul other than the fact that you don’t have to twist Swedes’ arms to get them to take a day off from work. After Easter comes May Day, which is a holiday and this year the subject of a worldwide general strike courtesy of the folks at Occupy Wall Street.
Until then, Glad Påsk! (Happy Easter!)