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Seven traditions that reveal it's Easter in Sweden

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Seven traditions that reveal it's Easter in Sweden
A Swedish child celebrating Easter in style. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
09:00 CET+01:00
The days are getting longer and the supermarket aisles are piled high with chocolate delights. It must be time for Easter. But what do secular Swedes do slightly differently to other nations when it comes to celebrating the festival?
1. Witches 
For the majority Easter (påsk) is a secular event in Sweden and the fact that many children dress up as witches gives a clear indication that the origins of the spring festival predate Christianity. Folklore alleges that witches flew off on broomsticks to dance with the devil at a legendary meadow named Blåkulla ('blue hill'), exactly the kind of event that Swedish parents are completely unfazed about their children re-enacting.
On Maundy Thursday (skärtorsdag), you'll spot kids with painted faces and broomsticks. Some knock on doors asking for treats, much like American children do at Halloween.

Children dressed up as witches in Sweden. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
2. Fake paper eggs in supermarkets
Whereas other countries make do with branded chocolate eggs over Easter, beautifully painted paper shells are available in Sweden, crammed with candy goodies (påskägg). Many schools and families organize Easter egg hunts, giving children clues and riddles to help them track the sweets down.

"Can I interest you in this fine Easter egg, sir?" Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT
3. Real eggs everywhere
Swedes are obsessed with dairy most of the year but eggs are a breakfast staple over Easter as well as featuring on many a midday smörgåsbord with toppings including caviar and and shrimp-based sauces.

A Swedish Easter breakfast. Photo: Noella Johansson/TT
4. Fish, pickled
Eggs often complement the pickled herring that is at the heart of most Swedes' Easter meals, while others opt for salmon or dill. Another popular dish is 'Janssons Frestelse' which translates to 'Jansson's Temptation'. It is a creamy casserole including potatoes onions and anchovies. All this will frequently be washed down by a glass (or three) of Swedish snaps. 
In case you were wondering, yes, this is exactly what Swedes eat at Christmas as well. And Midsummer.

This may look like a human tongue, but is in fact pickled herring. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
5. Summer houses
Easter is the first long weekend of the year and for many city dwellers it provides an excuse to enjoy the country's famous nature. Summer holiday cottages are not just the preserve of the rich in Scandinavia, so plenty of people escape their urban apartments and join relatives for some respite in the forest or by the coast.

A summer house in the Stockholm archipelago. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT
6. Feathered twigs
If you're invited to a Swedish lunch at a summer house (lucky you) or elsewhere, you might be wondering why on earth there are vases filled with bunches of twigs covered in feathers. In fact, Swedes have been decorating small birch tree branches like this since the 1800s. These originally served as a reminder of Christ's suffering and children would pretend to lash each other with them on Good Friday. Nowadays the feathers tend to be brightly coloured and tend to remain on the table.
This tradition appears to be declining for animal rights' reasons, including the difficulty in finding suppliers that can guarantee feathers are not taken from living animals, along with shortcomings in turkey farming.

Feathers at Easter. Photo: Lena Granefelt: Image Bank Sweden
7. Påskmust

Påskmust is somewhat like a super sweet, spicey root beer containing hops, sugar, malt aroma and spices, and no alcohol. It is the Easter version of julmust, the Christmas drink that far outsells Coca Cola every December. Every year Swedes debate whether the two beverages taste the same (they do).

Julmust, no wait, påskmust. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

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