Last year I remember we had a very vivid discussion in my expat network about the Swedish tradition of dressing up as an Easter witch. People were appalled by the thought of it; seeing Easter witches as something dark and scary. It can be hard to understand and accept other culture’s traditions and it can be equally hard for a person familiar to them to get why they can be provoking or upsetting. We are usually so caught up with and used to the traditions (hence the word) that we don’t really think about the whys and hows and what it can possible look like to an outsider.
I tried to explain that the Easter dressing up is like Halloween – kids knock on doors, sometimes leaving a homemade Easter card and hope for candy in return. But we all have different references to witches (come on, we do!) and it wasn’t until I googled pictures of cute little Easter witches that we all agreed that it wasn’t such a bad thing after all! Boys and girls dress up in long colorful skirts and headscarves (the most important attribute) and red colored cheeks and lots of freckles. Lately we also see little Easter Men and Bunnies.
The word “påskkärring” actually does not even mean Easter witch but rather “Easter Old Woman”. There is very little in common with the witches people believed in during the 17th Century – also people did not drink coffee in Sweden at the time, and a dressed up kid usually carries a coffee pot around accompanying the broomstick; sometimes even a black cat.
So, when can you expect them to arrive – the kids, not the witches? On the West coast of Sweden it is mostly common to be visited by påskkärringar during Easter Saturday, whereas Thursday is more common in the rest of the country.