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Swedish Culture

What is Swedish Easter and Why Are There Witches?

March 13, 2023 By Darby Johnson

It’s a time for family and friends. 

It’s a time for chocolate and candy. 

And it’s also a time for eggs! 

Unlike many other countries, Easter in Sweden is a mostly secular holiday. Superstition and witchcraft were traditionally part of the customs of Swedish Easter and are still loosely followed today. Hundreds of years ago, people believed witches flew on their broomsticks to a place called Blåkulla on the day before Good Friday, then returned on Easter Eve. Each region of Sweden had its own customs for protecting itself from the witches’ spells, like people lighting bonfires, shooting firearms into the sky, and drawing crosses on their front doors.  

In Sweden today, both the boys and girls dress up as witches (Påskkärring – Easter Witch), wear headscarves, long skirts, painted faces, and visit their neighbors with gifts of drawings and paintings in return for candy. After this adventure, the children are then given large eggs (Påskägg – Easter eggs) filled with candy or chocolate made by their parents. Some parents choose to create an easter egg hunt, sometimes designed with riddles or clues, or just simply gift them.  

Påskris, also known as the Swedish Easter tree, are usually birch or willow twigs gathered and decorated with feathers and hand-painted eggs. Or you can use a convenient bush or tree. Like decorating the Christmas tree, this is a tradition to do with the little ones in your life.  

Swedish Easter is designed to be a delightful experience for children and the American Swedish Institute shares that belief by curating a unique Easter weekend experience. ASI’s Youth & Family program designed a preschool program, Easter Witches, Feathers, and Fun, for young children to learn these Swedish Easter customs through storytelling, exploration, and craft.  

The next day, ASI hosts the Twin Cities’ only Easter Egg hunt in a castle! Experience this magic with a morning or afternoon filled with intergenerational activities to celebrate this spring weekend. Bring the family to enjoy story time with the Easter Witch, add feathers to the Easter tree, and make your own Easter table decorations and Swedish-inspired Easter cards.