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Beyond the Lone Islands

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Easter Decorations


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 (BlockulaBlåkulla) 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.


patricia said...

bonitas decoraciones.
felices pascuas!

Sandra said...

I really enjoyed this post, i like hearing about other countries traditions. I have never heard about the witches before or the feathers on the trees. the eggs on trees we do here and the eggs with chocolate. I like that photo of the Easter Tree and also the basket of eggs.

rae said...

This is fascinating. We don't have any equivalent to the feathers that I know of, so that was a great read (as well as fun photos).

Ginny said...

I LOVE your vase of feathers and your eggs. I had NO idea about the witches, feathers, or branches, so I for sure learned something new today. And it really surprised me. The tree is so cool!!!

GB said...

Interesting to hear about your traditions. Enjoyed the tree - I must pop into Town and see what they've done with the Emerson Street 'Tree' for Easter.

GB said...

Popped into town to get some odds and ends. They've still got the Valentine's Day Hearts on it. Humph.

DawnTreader said...

I'm learning from this too, trying to describe the customs of my own country to people living in parts of the world where the traditions are different.

GB, I was actually thinking about your tree, wondering if maybe they change the decorations to eggs or something for Easter. Humph, indeed. You should put in a complaint to whoever-is-in-charge! ;)

Dan Felstead said...

Dawn are sounds just like Halloween..interesting. Thanks for the history you know - I love history!



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