Glad påsk = happy easter (and some musings about a family oriented holiday + covid).

Like other holidays in Sweden, Easter seems to be celebrated the day before, so in this case, the day before Easter Sunday. So today is Easter Saturday and a significant part of a 4 day holiday season for Swedes. We have pretty flowers and some yellow egg shaped candles to make things a bit more festive in our rather quiet household.

The Easter celebration around here stretches from Thursday through Monday. I posted an article about Maundy Thursday earlier this week. Just to note, we didn't see any witches, not even small cute ones. It's apparently a day when you are not supposed "to spin or chop wood, as this might add to Christ's suffering. That night, we were apparently supposed to pain crosses on our front doors and hide any broomsticks or rakes to prevent the witches from flying to Mount Blåkulla to consort with the devil. We didn't know, but good news is that we didn't chop wood or spin.

Good Friday is supposed to involve being dressed in black and eating salty food with no drinks. Young people are supposed to have thrashed themselves with birch twigs....which I think is what the twigs with feathers are for? It's all supposed to be a reminder of Christ on the cross. According to one site,  "the word Påsk comes from the Hebrew word “pesah” meaning passing."

Photo from twitter
Easter Saturday is the big day here- egg hunts, exchange of chocolate (a lot of it), finding incredibly large candy filled eggs (the biggest I've seen are about 2.5 feet across for sale in the grocery store). Here's a random advertisement from the internet to give you a sense. This gives me a headache just looking at it... a reminder of an Easter celebration years past where a friend's 2 year old ate 4 cadberry cream eggs in about an hour. I don't recommend it. 

Gigantic Easter egg - 3 kg candy

For the adults, it's apparently about the "Påskbordet" or Easter feast. Gravlax (salt cured salmon) is one option. Pickled herring is another food of choice, with the beverage of choice are “Sill och nubbe" ("with nubbe are small bottles of snaps/aquavit/fire-water which most Swedes bring with them to any fest, like a travelling mini-bar.") Could explain why the state run liquor store was advertising very carefully how it was going to handle crowds + covid preparations. 

Normally Swedes go to their summer houses and into the countryside. Despite the King giving a speech a week ago asking people to stay home, we saw more than a few cars packed with bags of groceries and people heading out. One of Chris' colleagues said that they were prepping for their Easter feast with plans for eating outside, a bit distant from each other (grandparents not invited).

Excerpts from the King's speech:

As I mentioned, Holy Week leads us to Easter. For me, and for many people in our country, this is an important celebration and one we look forward to.

It is a time when we are keen to travel and perhaps spend time with family and friends. Many go to church.

But, this Easter, some of this will not be possible. We have to accept this. We have to rethink, prepare ourselves for staying home.

We might feel sad about this. But there will be more Easter holidays. After all, for most us, this will require relatively minor sacrifices – especially if we compare this to falling seriously ill or losing a friend or member of our family.

Today, I am thinking especially of all the children in our country who are now at risk of losing grandparents. Of missing out on the security and wisdom they can offer.

For their sake, we must act responsibly and selflessly. Everyone in our country has this obligation. Each and every one of us.

There is still a great deal of uncertainty. But one thing is certain: we will remember these times and look back on them.

Did I think about other people? Or did I put myself first? We will have to live with the choices we make today, for a long time to come. They will impact many.


I digress for a bit from Easter. This speech is really interesting to me. The King is holding himself out to be a moral leader. In talking with Swedish colleagues, however, he gets mixed reviews, having had a few very publicly discussed affairs and a propensity for saying not quite the right thing. In contrast, his daughter (the crown princess) is seen as a respected public figure. She's not being used as the voice of moral authority, however. 

My sense is this kind of speech is partially in lieu of Sweden perhaps not having the legal authority to order a complete shut down or quarantine. On Thursday, a law professor at Stockholm University wrote a really interesting piece entitled "Between normalcy and state of emergency: The legal framework for Sweden's coronavirus strategy". The author noted that Sweden has not been at war since 1814 and does not in fact have the powers of emergency that other countries have. Sweden's parliament has met (just 55 out of its 150+ members to avoid spreading the virus) and given itself broader powers to combat the coronavirus if needed. Stay tuned. 

Chris and I keep having lively debates about Sweden's response towards covid, esp. in light of the holiday. If people go home and keep mixing (restaurants were full late this week and we were kept awake by a neighbor's party), it seems that there would be a spike in infections in about 2 weeks. The Public Health Authority did say that it would be checking restaurants this weekend for whether they are adhering to spacing guidelines, with the threat of shutting restaurants down. As we walked today through our neighborhood, we saw more signs recommending spacing from others of 2 meters. 

Where does this all go? Who knows. We're not going to have a bonfire tonight nor are our kids going door to door asking for chocolate. We are planning our own egg hunt tomorrow in the woods, or maybe this afternoon as it threatens rain tomorrow. 

I've also been eyeing the recipes from other countries to try as well: German easter bunny vegetable strudels; Italian cakes; Spanish torrijas (like French toast but different?). 

And marveling about the different traditions for Easter. Did you know that the church bells in many parts of Europe allegedly fly to Rome between Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday? No church bells ring during that time; good news is that they bring back chocolate for kids. Normally there are processionals in Spain and Italy to mark the resurrection. The Norwegians go to their summer cabins, go skiing, and read crime novels. Danes celebrate with food, specially brewed beer, and an exchange of chocolate eggs with a riddle. The Finns seem to have a similar mix as the Swedes of pagan & Christian traditions, complete with cute witches. 

So we wish you a glad påsk, happy passover, or simply hope for you to be able to spend time outside to celebrate spring (and maybe a crime novel to help pass the time).