Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Wicked Witches of the East... er

In Sweden and parts of Finland, Easter is celebrated by children who dress up as witches and carry copper kettles to beg for treats. The children don dirty rags, old clothes that don't fit, shawls, and other stereotypical "witch" clothing, paint bright red circles of "blush" on their cheeks, and carry a broom and copper pot to trick-or-treat on the Thursday (or Saturday) preceding Easter Sunday. In exchange, the children give their benefactors homemade Easter cards.

The tradition comes from the long-held belief that witches flew to Blåkulla (Blue Mountain) to meet with Satan. Villagers lit fires to scare the witches away on their return trip, which leads to the tradition of lighting fires throughout the season.

Another Swedish Easter tradition involves tying bright feathers to birch twigs. In earlier times, kids lashed each other with birch twigs on Good Friday, to commemorate Christ's pain. However the tradition, which dates back to the 19th Century, is said to be more about welcoming Spring than the flogging thing.

Swedes still enjoy eggs over the Easter holidays, though they do not hunt for them. They eat a lot of eggs, as eggs are prohibited during Lent and many celebrated the end of their fasting by eating eggs. Children give one another homemade paper "eggs" filled with treats, as well.

© C Harris Lynn, 2009

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