Going into town a few days ago, I left my camera at home. It was a grey and dull day anyway, and I wasn’t going anywhere “interesting”. When I got to the town square, there was a surprise waiting:
An Easter Tree. Just to prove the point that you should never leave home without the camera!
It was still there when I got back with the camera yesterday, though – with a much nicer blue sky as background, and surrounded by colourful market stalls. (So not too many regrets about not bringing the camera the other day…)
Not sure about the Lent and Easter traditions around the world, but in Sweden we also take in branches (often from birch) and decorate with colourful feathers, and sometimes eggs and chickens (symbols of new life) – and little witches.
Witches?! Yes. In old traditions, Thursday and/or Saturday before Easter is sort of our equivalent to the American Halloween.
The background is old belief that witches would fly off to a certain place (Blockula – Blåkulla) on the Thursday before Easter to cavort with Satan. (Cavort? The word was used in a Time article I found about it on the web - I’ll let it stand…) As they supposedly returned on Saturday night, people would light bonfires and fireworks then to scare them away. This tradition varies across the country, but in the south west where I live, there are still Easter fires lit on Easter Eve in some places. On the whole, though, I think this tradition is giving way to a similar tradition of bonfires on 30 April – Walpurgis night – to celebrate the arrival of Spring.
Children also dress up to look like little old witches – in head-shawls and aprons and with typical attributes like broomstick and kettle - and sometimes go door to door hoping to collect treats. And if they don’t go door to door, Easter is still the big holiday for candy, with Easter Eggs filled with sweets and chocolate – and of course especially for the children.
The two largest of these eggs of mine go back at least to the 1980s. I know that because they were made in the German Democratic Republic!
More likely, they are from the late 60s or early 70s and I probably got them from grandparents. The smallest one I might have got later (it does not have the GDR stamp in it). From what I see in the shops, new ones are still made in the same classic style (even if there are other kinds as well).
My own thoughts about the tradition of mixing witches into the Easter celebrations is that it originally served as a reminder of the “uncertainty” which ruled the world between the Death of the Son of God on the Cross on Easter Friday (which in Sweden we call the Long Friday), and the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
In our time and country, I would say that Easter has become an even more secularized holiday than Christmas. Most people I think see it primarily a celebration of spring, and enjoy the extra days off.
I’ll get back to some Church traditions another day.
If you’d like to see bigger size pictures of the Easter Tree, visit my Picture Book today.