Children dressed as witches give a clear indication that Swedish Påsk origins predate Christianity. Folklore alleges that witches flew off on broomsticks to dance with the devil at Blåkulla.
In Sweden, this tale ties in with Easter. And so on skärtorsdag, Maundy Thursday, modern Swedish children dress up as påskkärringar (Easter hags) paint their faces, carry a broom and knock on neighbor’s doors for treats, much like American children do at Halloween.
Good Friday is more appropriately named in Swedish, Långfredag – Long Friday, the most unhappening day of the calendar. Fun not allowed. Only in recent years are cinemas allowed to be open. However, once the mourning of the crucifixion of Christ is over, the proverbial good times roll. Saturday morning resembles a resurrection of sorts.
Spring is in the air, merriment is on the menu. The family will sit down to an ample feast in the afternoon on Påskafton, or the Eve of Easter. Eggs and lamb are the quintessential Easter fare that very nearly connote Påsk all by themselves. They represent the fertility of the spring and the rebirth of the year after the long winter.
Bonfires are lit in most regions of Sweden in the late afternoon. Some say they are to scare off the evil influences of the Easter hags and their journey to Blåkulla. Others take the opportunity to clear gardens for the coming spring. For some regions, including the Stockholm area, the bonfires must wait until Valborgsmässafton or Walpurgis Night at the end of April to banish the remnants of winter.