Unusual Easter customs from around world are revealed in an article, “Top 10 Things You Didn't Know About Easter,” appearing on “Time.” The article explores one of several superstitious traditions pertaining to the “Easter witch” or “Easter-hag” that are still adhered to in parts of Finland and Sweden today. Each year on the Thursday or Saturday before Easter Sunday, girls don on old clothing, rags, over-sized shawls and skirts and go to neighboring houses carrying a copper kettle as they ask for treats in a “mini-Halloween” event.
The Time article continues to explain that the tradition is a remnant of the once held superstition pertaining to witches who, on the Thursday before Easter Sunday, would allegedly fly to the mountains to cavort with the devil.
According to the website Sweden.se, in an event called “Gå påskkärring,” young children go from home to home and give away handmade Easter cards. In return, children receive Easter candies. The tradition is not solely confined to girls as young boys also participate; The kids don on headscarves, aprons and paint their cheeks red before roaming the neighborhood.
The practice of Gå påskkärring is just one of several Easter traditions that serve as remnants from older superstitions. Following the reformation, Swedes had a “strange infatuation with the discovery of witches”: A practice affecting all of Europe during the seventeenth century, according to a write up in volume 19 of “The Monthly Repository of Theology and General Literature.” Beliefs held that bonfires would frighten away witches on their return from the mountain tops.
Horace Marry writes in “One Year in Sweden: Including a Visit to the Isle of Götland,” of the Swedish customs of Easter-eve, where hundreds of tar barrels were set on fire at midnight, a practice called by the peasants of the time as “burning the witch-karl.” Following the burning of the “witch-karl,” men would consume as many eggs as they could possibly eat; The eggs were viewed as symbolic of Christ’s resurrection. Other formerly held practices included painting large tar crosses on barnyard doors as a form of protection against sorcery.
Today, the once held Swedish superstitions are remembered through far-more contemporary customs. Along with the “mini-Halloween” customs and Gå påskkärring, fireworks light up the night sky and bonfires are set several days before Easter Sunday, all of which serve as practices that honor age-old traditions and superstitions.
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