Easter Traditions in Sweden & The United States

It’s Easter weekend {Påskhelg} and for the Swedes, we began the celebrations/penance yesterday, Good Friday. Easter in Sweden is like many other holidays in Sweden, a mix of Christian, secular, and mythological traditions.

If you would like to have to a traditional Easter in Sweden, it doesn’t veer too far off from American traditions, just add witches and burning pyres.

Confused now? Waiting for the Easter Bunny to show up? He won’t; he’s dead to Sweden, but here is how we celebrate the coming spring (if it happens) and the crucification of Jesus.

Easter in Sweden

  • Easter traditions begin with Fettisdagen {Shrove Tuesday} where Swedes eat the sweet, almond-filled buns called semlor.
  • Candy is a major part of the celebration leading to Easter. Swedes love the lösgodis; chocolates, licorice, or gummies. Americans have the microwave exploding Peeps and jelly beans while the Brits have chocolate Easter eggs filled with more chocolates and Candbury cream eggs.

    And yes, Swedes do consume the most candy per capita in the world.

  • On Skärtorsdagen {Maudy Thursday}, young children dress up as påskkärringar {Easter witches/hags} and go door to door begging for candy and treats with a copper kettle. Little girls dresses up in rags and old clothes, oversized skirts and shawls.
  • It was also on Skärtorsdagan that the witches flew to the magical island called Blåkulla to consort with the Devil. The witches returned to their dens on Saturday and families burned pyres to ward off them off from cursing their homes and lands.

    Europe, during the mid 1600s, battled for religious power across the continent with fervor spreading throughout the continent and abroad. From 1668 to 1676, Sweden was immersed in large witch hunts and executions of them. The Blåkulla fable rapidly spread through the country to warn of witches and caste them from society. Across the pond in the US a mere twenty years later, New England was embroiled in the Salem witch trials.

  • For decoration, birch twigs have brightly colored feathers on the end and placed in vases around the house. According to ancient beliefs, birch twigs hastened the onset of the spring season.
  • Families also paint eggs and put them out for display. However, the selection of pretty stamps and stencils and colors to dye eggs is dismal.
  • Young children partake in an egg hunt with little papper eggs filled with lösgodis {loose bin candy} on Påskafton {Saturday}. It is not common for communities or large groups to do the hunt; this is more of a family affair.
  • Traditional Easter lunch consists of various flavored sill {pickled herring}, cured salmon and Jansson’s Temptation. The table is often laid like a traditional smörgåsbord.
  • At Easter dinner, families eat roast lamb with potatoes au gratin, asparagus (if the season has started), and other fresh spring vegetables (i.e. potatoes and carrots).

Easter in the United States

  • Children participate in large egg hunts to find colorful plastic eggs filled with chocolate.
  • Easter Friday is a somber day to acknowledge the crucification of Jesus. Jews observe the first day of Passover with a sedar.
  • Families decorate eggs and fill the house with spring flowers like tulips and daffodils.

  • Some Americans observe the idiotic and unethical tradition of buying bunnies or colored chicks for children as presents. Just dumb to turn living pets into goodie bag gifts. If you want to volunteer or help save a bunny visit the House Rabbit Society in your area.
  • Source: nytimes.com


  • Chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, Peeps, and chocolate eggs are popular candies for children and adults to consume. Personally, I love Cadbury creme eggs, that delicious sweet cream filling.
  • Easter Sunday dinner is similar to a Swedish dinner with roast lamb and potatoes.

You can mix the beauty of Swedish food and crazy witch trick-or-treating with the American decorated Easter eggs and egg hunts and have a wonder Easter!

Glad Påsk!

4 thoughts on “Easter Traditions in Sweden & The United States”

  1. “Some Americans observe the idiotic and unethical tradition of buying bunnies or colored chicks for children as presents.”

    What happens to them?

  2. @Youma – Sadly, most of the bunnies end up abandoned, set ‘free’, or dumped at shelters. Chicks are sometimes returned to the farmer that sold them but most are destroyed.

    The House Rabbit Society across the US does God’s work (I use that in a somber way) by saving and rehoming many of the abandoned bunnies. It’s all very sad.

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