Sandburg's Hometown

April 14, 2014

Easter in Sweden - Witches flying

Swedish Easter
by Barbara Schock

In Sweden, Easter is the most important religious holiday after Christmas. Easter Week is both a period of celebration and solemnity. Branches of pussy willow and other early blooming trees are decorated with feathers. These represent the flagellation of Jesus before his crucifixion. In earlier times, self-flagellation was practiced in commemoration of Jesus’ affliction.

It has been a custom for children dressed as hags to knock on the doors of neighbors. They present handmade cards with Easter greetings to the homeowner in the hope of being given a treat or a coin. This is a reflection of the seventeenth century, when it was thought witches flew on their brooms to consort with the devil on Maundy Thursday. More than one woman was hanged because of this hysterical belief rising up in a village.

Like many other countries, the Swedish Easter is about food. The smorgasbord, including herring, salmon, meatballs, boiled potatoes and a variety of egg dishes, is served. Many families enjoy roast lamb for their Easter dinner as well.

Semla buns are eaten throughout Lent. The name comes from the semolina (hard wheat) flour used in making the buns. The dough is flavored with cardamom. After baking, the top of the bun is cut off and the bun is filled with almond paste and whipped cream. The top is replaced and sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar. They are eaten with a cup of coffee. Some prefer the bun placed in a bowl of warm milk for eating.

Eggs are the most common food. They are hard-cooked and decorated for eating on Easter Eve. Eggs made of paper and cardboard are decorated and filled with candy for the children. The eggs are hidden within the home for children to find. The egg is the symbol of the grave from which Jesus rose on Easter morning.

Like so many other countries the Swedish Easter customs are a combination of pagan, seasonal and religious practices. In the United States we observe similar customs, but have different ways of doing them. We use palm branches to signify those laid in the path of Jesus into Jerusalem. We give children Easter baskets filled with toys and candy. Easter egg hunts are held in city parks. The Pascal candle is lighted for church services.

Carl Sandburg wrote about Christmas but not Easter. His parents may have celebrated the day by going to church, getting together with relatives and serving a large meal. They may have brought some Easter customs with them from the old country or they may have accepted the practices of their new nation. There were years when the Sandburg family was too poor to make Easter any kind of celebration.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013  Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013  Lace Curtains 
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity