Holiday – Sweden

“My mother’s Swedish and when I was growing up she used to tell me stories about Easter Witches. My mom told me that in Sweden when Easter comes, it’s always a welcome holiday because Winters are really long in Sweden so when Easter comes that means that there will be spring. And the Easter witch always has a shiny copper kettle. And she should have a broomstick, and a black cat. And the little girls that dress up as witches on the Saturday before Easter, they’re usually dressed up with their mom’s little skirts or shawls…they’re kinda like a kerchief but sorta like a bandana. And they have an apron and, of course, the little girls have copper kettles. And then the little girls go door to door to the neighbors and then they ring the bell and then they um they shake the copper kettle and they say ‘A coin or some sweets? Either will do.’ And then they go to the next neighbor and they do the same thing. It’s some old belief that Easter witches…it was once thought that the witches flew off to…it’s called Blåkulla. It’s in Germany. And the witches would fly off to that place to celebrate Easter there. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know why. Nowadays, the little girls after they go to the neighbors, they just go back to home to their moms. And they make little homemade decorations, painting eggs, and they’ll have like silver birch branches…you take some of the branches and you put it in a vase. This is part of the Easter decoration. On the end of the branches you tie chicken feathers, but colorful ones! And the reason why they have these birch branches is because they’re connected with Good Friday because they’re supposed to symbolize the scourging of Christ. In Sweden, it’s actually called Long Friday in Swedish. It’s to commemorate the crucification and the death of Jesus. My mom told me that a long, long time ago on Good Friday, they used the branches and the girls would beat the boys, the boys would beat the girls, the servants would beat the masters, and the masters would beat the servants. Sweden had lots of superstitions and in Sweden, the winters are especially dark. A long time ago, the witches were probably not seen as a good thing. They were flying off to Blakulla to dance with the devil. And over time, with the arrival of Christianity, many of the superstitions would disappear and some of them would stay but they become less threatening. The holidays celebrated today…they’ve become less superstitious and more fun.”

One can see from this Swedish version of the Easter holiday the role that Christianity plays on different cultures. In the past, the celebration of this Easter holiday was simply meant to embrace the new season of warmth and new life as they transition from Winter to Spring. But later on, a religious function was added to this holiday and people now celebrate Easter as a way of remember Jesus Christ. The beating of the birch branches was probably a way for people to remember the past and understand the experience that Jesus had as he was crucified. Additionally, it is interesting to not Mrs. Angoulvant’s comment about the Easter witches flying to Germany to celebrate Easter with the devil. This may suggest a slight tension or dislike between Germany and Sweden.