Easter Traditions in Scandinavia

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WIT social media guru Wailana is heading to Stockholm, Sweden for Easter. Stay tuned next week for her photos and feedback!

Did you know that Scandinavia has several Easter traditions different than what you’d find anywhere else? Eggs and bunnies are still as popular as in the West—but there are a few customs that really stand out.

In Norway, Carnival is celebrated as Fastelaven, a children’s celebration with parties and fancy costumes. Norwegians eat special bread buns with butter and sugar. A common sight are birch twigs, dressed up in colorful feathers. In the old days, people would pat each other with the twigs—now they remain safely on the dining table. On Palm Sunday, birches are dressed up with hanging ornaments and painted eggs. Children paint eggs, make paper baskets and light yellow candles. In the North of norway, the Sami culture is in full bloom with the Sami Easter Festival—which showcases a delightful range of cultural traditions, from Sami music and film, to the World Reindeer Racing championships.

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In Sweden, Easter is a secular event that retains many pagan and Christian traditions. Children dress up as witches, a nod to local folklore that tells the story of witches who flew on broomsticks to dance with the devil at Blåkulla meadow. Swedes also celebrate the holiday with special foods, including picked herring, Jansson’s Temptation (a casserole of potatoes, onions and anchovies) and Swedish snaps. Swedes also have the tradition of birch twig decoration.

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In Finland, as in Sweden, many children dress up as Easter witches, with colorful clothes and painted freckles on their faces. They go from door to door, waving birch twigs to drive away evil spirits in return for sweets. Neighbors will have a basket of chocolate eggs ready to give in thanks. Special foods include roast lamb and malt and cream puddings. As a leftover from pagan times, many villages will light bonfires to drive away evil spirits.

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In Denmark, as elsewhere, eggs play an important role—chocolate eggs are stacked in baskets, and boiled eggs are painted in various colors. In the south, it’s popular to compete in a casual “race” and roll the decorated creations down a hillside. Danish children also send out a “guess letter,” a letter that is missing bits of words, signed with only an initial of his or her name. The recipient has to guess who sent the letter in three attempts. If you don’t get the answer correct, you owe the sender an Easter egg. And of course there is the chocolate egg hunt, where the kids get to look around for hidden eggs around the house and garden.

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Icelanders, largely a secular people, go out of their way to celebrate the holidays. Easter is a children’s festival, marked by the sharing of large chocolate eggs, filled with candy, fortunes, or traditional proverbs. A long weekend of vacation usually means a few days in the countryside at the family’s summerhouse.

Do you celebrate Easter in your country? Let us know how in the comments! Wittravel regularly arranges trips to Scandinavia for our clients–call us to find out more. 

Thanks to flickr cc users Jacob Botter, Clarence, ainudil, Fredrik Enestad and fiverlocker

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