A very Scandi Easter- part 1
After a very long cold and dark winter, the arrival of spring and Easter is something that is highly celebrated in Scandinavia. Not only with eggs, good food and company, but also with a few unusual traditions.
In denmark for example, the tradition of writing “teaser letters” still holds strong and has done since the early 1800s. A teaser letter is a pattern carefully cut into a piece of paper with a little verse written between the cuttings. The sender then adds dots in place of his or her name and encloses a snowdrop – considered to be the first flower of the year in Denmark and a symbol of springtime and lighter days. If the receiver cannot guess who sent the letter before Easter, the prize for the sender is a nice big Easter egg. If, however, the sender guesses, the prize goes to the recipient (although, miraculously, most parents never do seem to be able to guess which letters are from their own kids).
In Norway a slightly different tradition is associated with Easter, and perhaps a slightly unusual one at that, with no links to anything much historic: around Easter, publishers rush to churn out masses of what are known to all Norwegians as “Påskekrimmen” – literally translated as ‘Easter Thrillers’ – and bookshops are filled to the brim with newly published crime novels. This fascination with “whodunnits” even extends to mini-thrillers being published in obscure places such as on the side of milk cartons. So, if this Easter you happen to bump into a Norwegian who has his backpack stuffed with a selection of gory crime novels, an orange and a ‘Kvikk Lunch’ chocolate bar, it’s pretty standard fare.
Sweden, on the other hand, has Easter celebrations that are deeply rooted in the old Christian witch-hunt times. The celebrations last from Maundy Thursday until Easter Monday. In the olden days it was thought that on Maundy Thursday, all the Witches would fly off on their broomsticks to the Blue Mountains in Germany to have a weekend of fun and dancing with Satan. Today, children in Sweden celebrate by dressing up as little witches, called påskkärringar (literally: ‘Easter Witches’): dressed in long skirts, headscarves, painted red cheeks and freckles. The kids go from house to house to collect money or sweets – this is the Swedish version of the North American tradition of Halloween. The children sometimes also deliver an Easter Letter – the identity of the sender is always supposed to be a secret.
What do you guys think? Something you are going to try this Easter?
In the next blog I'll write a little bit more about how the Scandinavians decorate during this holiday!