Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Witches

Easter (Påsk) is a big deal here in Sweden. Good Friday and Easter Monday are national holidays, with many people taking a half-day off on Thursday as well. During lent, my mother-in-law gave me branches with bright feathers attached to them. I asked her if this was traditional, as I'd never seen anything like them before. They are common here during Easter, and I've now seen them outside stores, restaurants, and in people's homes.

Here are some for sale at Lund's Farmers' Market:

When a friend called and asked if my boys wanted to be Easter witches with her son, I had no idea what she was talking about. Legend has it that on the Thursday before Easter, all the witches fly to Blåkulla, a magical mountain somewhere, and have a party with the devil. My Swedish teacher spoke about the witch-burning days in Europe, but assured us that no witches (also known as female healers) have been burned in Sweden for 300 years.

Anyway, it's now a tradition that during the Easter week, kids dress as nice witches (scarves, rosy cheeks, and freckles) and ring people's doors and give them little hand-made Easter crafts. The people, in return, give a coin, candy, or fruit. In other words, it's similar to Halloween, but not as specific a time, and everyone dresses as the same thing. (Halloween is celebrated here also, but it's more a new thing, not traditional.)

So, our boys dressed as witches on Thursday and went around the neighborhood, which gave me an opportunity to say hello to some neighbors we hadn't met yet. The kids got mostly candy, but when a woman gave them an apple, Henrik said, "I guess she didn't have any candy, so she gave us fruit."

Friday, April 22, 2011


I find myself so much more tuned into nature here. In the south of Sweden, there are many trees, but most are deciduous. For months, the landscape shows only dark, barren branches awaiting spring.

When the first bulbs start to bloom, it's a big deal. The schools talk to the kids about the spring flowers, people smile and remark on the new blooms, and the newspaper reports on which flowers are coming next.

In February or March, the little white snödroppar (Snowdrops), said to cheat winter, are the first to bloom.

On the second day of spring, Henrik's preschool opened. His class is named "Snödroppen," which seems fitting as the school opened just as the flowers were appearing. Here he is, riding his bike to school with Mats on his first day:

He really likes school, and his teachers say that he's understanding Swedish well, but still speaks to them mostly in English. With the kids, however, I hear him starting, just like Lucas did, to speak Swedish. "Look here," "Stop it," and "Come here" seem to be some of the first phrases kids learn. This past week it seemed that some magical language piece clicked in, and now I hear him switching between the languages like Lucas does.

Along with the flowers and trees, I look forward to watching Henrik's Swedish bloom this spring.