I'm feeling rather benevolent toward Sweden these days. I know—crazy, right? I’m not sure why but perhaps it has something to do with the longer days. Perhaps also, the sunshine, the flowers, the coming of Easter and its colorful and very unique celebration here in Sweden. It could also have something to do with the fact that my sambo purchased for me a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 as a gift. I love it. I’m a sucker for presents … they make me happy.
But I digress, I’ve also recently witnessed several acts of random kindness on the streets of Gothenburg and this brings me a renewed sense of goodwill. Sunshine, it seems, brings out the best in people. But, I also think sometimes you get what you dwell on. It’s never good to dwell on darkness when living as an expat.
So in the spirit of something more pastel, let’s take a look at this weekend’s holiday: Easter.

The first thing I noted about Easter in Sweden is the presence of witches and feathers, and it seems an awful lot of cleaning is involved. Cleaning works for me because I love the ritual of spring cleaning. I did my spring cleaning every year in the States and it’s one of those honored routines that translates nicely to a new country. Here in Sweden, it’s about sweeping your chimney (really?), opening up the summer house, and throwing wide your windows. So as a newcomer to Sweden, and as a patriot of the U.S., I’ve spent the last week washing my curtains, mopping floors, polishing windows and making many trips to the recycle center. It somehow feels like a new start.
Another aspect of the Scandinavian Easter holiday is the presence of the witch. I truly adore the idea of celebrating Easter with the presence of the witch. Tonight, Maundy Thursday (skärtorsdagen), children dress up with headscarves, over-sized outfits and painted red cheeks, and collect sweets and coins, making their way door to door, much like Halloween in the U.S. It is also believed that tonight is the night where witches steal household brooms and make their way to Blåkulla or “Blue Mountain” to dance with the devil. Guess where I’ll be tonight?

One thing that's unique to Sweden—and has always been a puzzlement to me—is the popularity of birch twigs (påskris) decorated with brightly colored feathers. These colorful twigs adorn nearly every storefront, coffee shop and family dinner table in Sweden. It seems the twigs serve as a reminder of Christ’s suffering … interesting in a country which is basically secular. On Friday morning, Good Friday, the youngsters playfully switch each other with the new season's birch twigs. The reason for this remains a mystery to me.
Food is always a main event in any holiday. It’s no different here in Sweden. It is the custom to eat boiled eggs, brightly decorated, as well as chocolate eggs and other yummy items. But alas, not a chocolate rabbit is to be found. Another popular dish that you will find on the Easter table is Janssons Frestelse or Jansson’s Temptation. This dish is typically also served at Christmas and remains one of my guy’s favorite offerings. It is a creamy potato, onion and anchovy casserole. And just like any other Swedish holiday, the smörgåsbord takes center stage, consisting primarily of pickled fish, crisp bread, lamb, and plenty of spirits. Skål!
Not being one to particularly embrace the Easter holiday back in my own country, I am no doubt a fan here in Sweden. This holiday marks the celebration not only of the witch but also the first long weekend of a bright spring season and the coming of the midnight sun. And like so many other Swedes, tired of the darkness, I’m down with that.
Glad påsk alla!!
Lisa Mikulski