Easter 2018 and 2019
Two-thirds of Sweden’s population, nearly 10 million strong, are official members of the Church of Sweden, which is a Protestant and Lutheran institution.
|2018||30 Mar||Fri||Good Friday|
|1 Apr||Sun||Easter Sunday|
|2 Apr||Mon||Easter Monday|
|2019||19 Apr||Fri||Good Friday|
|21 Apr||Sun||Easter Sunday|
|22 Apr||Mon||Easter Monday|
Yet, this is a decline from earlier times when 95 percent were members, and only a dismal two percent attend services regularly. Mostly, church is attended for special occasions, such as weddings, funerals, and Christenings. Some also opt to attend church for holy days like Easter, but Easter has taken on a much more secular appearance in Sweden in recent decades.
The Swedes do keep up a good number of Easter traditions, and some of them have religious roots to them, but most keep them as a matter of custom or just for pure enjoyment rather than for religious reasons.
Some of the most notable Swedish Easter customs are as follows:
As Easter approaches, on Annunciation Day, which lands on March 25th, the people of Sweden traditionally eat waffles. The reason for this practice stems from the similarity in sound between “Varfrudagen” (Our Lady’s Day) and “Vaffeldagen” (Waffle Day).
“Trick or Treat” and Bonfires
On Maundy Thursday, the date of the Last Supper, Swedes have traditions that predate the national conversion to Christianity. Children dress up like witches and go from door to door asking for candy and other treats. It is much like a Swedish version of Halloween, only it is associated with Easter time. The costumes often consist of long skirts, colorful scarves, and red paint on the face. Sometimes, the children give out a drawing or painting they have made in exchange for the treats.
The above practice is based on an old Swedish legend that said witches travel to Blakulla (Blue Mountain) every Maundy Thursday to meet with the Devil. The trip was accomplished by magical powers, and the Devil awaited the witches in a house in the middle of a meadow. As Maundy Thursday was the day on which Satan entered Judas and moved him to betray Christ, one could speculate this may have influenced the date, but the legend itself is pre-Christian in origin.
In some parts of Sweden, especially in the western areas, large bonfires are lit around Easter time. Originally, this was done to frighten off the witches that were believed to be particularly numerous and active at this time of year. Today, it is simply a custom and an activity that many deem entertaining.
Eggs and Egg Hunts
Boiled and painted Easter eggs, as in many countries, are a major Easter tradition in Sweden. The eggs are usually decorated by first punching a tiny hole in each end of the egg and then blowing out the white and yolk. The egg’s contents are not wasted but made into scrambled eggs, but the decorated Easter eggs are truly “empty shells” if indeed beautiful to behold. Watercolor paint, ordinary paint, dyes, and glued-on decorations all can become part of the final artistry of these eggs.
The Swedes also eat many chocolate eggs and other candy during Easter time, including chocolate rabbits and marshmallow chicks. Small gifts and sweets are often stuffed inside of “paper egg shells” to be given away, and of course, these paper shells are painted ornately just like the real egg shells are. All of these eggs and other sweets are often hidden for children to find during Easter egg hunts at home, at school, or in local communities. Riddles and clues are given to the children so they can locate the hidden treats.
While small ornaments shaped like rabbits, chickens, and witches are often a part of decorating the house for Easter, the most notable decoration this time of year are “Easter branches.” Brightly colored feathers are attached to small willow or birch branches, which are then put in a vase and set on display. The tradition only dates from the 19th Century, but it was originally meant to remind of sufferings of Christ on a cross of wood.
As Swedes celebrate most holidays on the eve rather than on the day itself, Holy Saturday is a major occasion. This is the day when Swedish families gather together for an Easter lunch or dinner and family fellowship. The feast is a “smorgasbord” of such food items as pickled herring, salmon, eggs topped with caviar or shrimp sauces, and “Janssons Frestelse,” which is a casseroles made of potatoes, anchovies, onions, and cream sauce. Typically, all is then washed down with a bit of Swedish snaps.
Sweden is a highly urbanized nation, but it also has an expansive, forested wilderness within its bounds. During the long Easter weekend, many Swedes visit their summer homes out in the countryside. They enjoy nature’s early-spring greenery in the forests or along the sea coast, spend time with relatives, and get away from the bustle of city life.
If you plan to visit Sweden around Easter time, three Easter time activities you may wish to partake in are:
Visit the Kulturen in Lund
On Maundy Thursday, Lund’s Kulturen offers a great way to get acquainted with Swedish Easter traditions and culture. There are arts, crafts, children dressed up like little witches, an egg decoration time, and a chance to cook some traditional Swedish Easter food.
Visit Skansen in Stockholm
At Skansen, you will find a museum, a park, and a zoo all wrapped into one and all out in the open air. Traditional Easter activities will take place there, and the nearby Easter Market gives you a chance to buy some crafts, Easter food items, Easter decorations, and much more.
Visit the Gothenburg Botanical Garden
There is no time like spring to see the flowers in full bloom at the 430-acre Gothenburg Botanical Garden. There is a rock garden, a greenhouse with immense amounts of plants and orchids, a “Japanese Glade,” and a famous “Easter Island Tree,” which is the last tree of its kind in the vicinity.
While many businesses will close on Good Friday and Easter Monday, many venues are still opened. You should verify what is open and when before booking, but visiting Sweden at Easter time will offer a unique look into Swedish culture and the opportunity to take part in many special Easter events.