Swedish Easter for Dummies

Swedish Easter for Dummies

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@Paula Dubbink
Easter decorations at Stortorget. Photo: Tindra Englund.

For many Swedes, Easter might mainly consist of chocolate eggs and looking at the colorful feathers on sticks that stand outside all shops. (Yeah, we don’t really know what is up with them either.) Being both a theology student and an experienced immigrant, I felt a mission here: here are the six things that you never knew you wanted to know about Swedish Easter!

  1. The week before Easter is quite busy for many people. Churches have more services than any other week of the year and children have off from school. Try then to find the logics in the Swedish calling this week for “Silent Week”.
  2. The Wednesday before Easter has a special name in Swedish (Dymmelonsdag): It comes from the word for the wood bits that once were used to dim the sound of the church bells: in such a serious week, there couldn’t be so much noise. Almost all Swedes have forgotten about this, so this is a good fact to impress your Swedish friends with.
  3. On Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter) children can dress up as witches and go around in the streets. The background has something to do with the folkish belief some ages ago that Maundy Thursday was the day that all witches travelled to “Blockula” to celebrate “Witch Sabbath” with the Devil. Nowadays, they are friendly though: the dressed-up kids go around with cards, wishing their neighbors a Happy Easter. If you happen to meet them, give them candy!
  4. Good Friday was once a solemn day in Sweden: until the 1970s, shops and restaurants had to keep closed. That is no longer the case, but Good Friday is still a “red day”, which means a holiday for most people. The same is the case for Easter Monday.
  5. Typically, Swedes celebrate feasts a day too early: the biggest Christmas celebration is for example on the 24th. With Easter it can often be the same: the big Easter meal might be held on Easter Saturday already. Typical Swedish Easter food is for example salmon, eggs and lamb.
  6. Even if in church Easter actually starts on Easter Day – that’s when the resurrection is celebrated and that celebration lasts 40 days – in Sweden that’s also the day that the party  already ends. So buy yourself some down-priced chocolate eggs starting from Easter Monday…
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