See any witches zipping around last night? If so, that’s because it was Maundy Thursday, and apparently Swedish Easter traditions bear more than a passing resemblance to American Halloween.
“In Sweden and some parts of Finland, painted eggs are common, but a traditional Easter also involves children dressing up like witches and going door-to-door asking for treats,” explains Collector’s Weekly in a piece about the tradition. “On postcards and other vintage Easter ephemera, we have fuzzy chicks and cuddly rabbits, while the Swedes have headscarf-sporting witches transporting cats and copper coffee pots on their brooms.”
If it sounds like Halloween, it’s a similar idea—that this is one of those liminal places on the calendar, the moment between the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Good time for witches to fuck with your livestock, throw wild parties, and generally pester the law-abiding local villagers. Of course, over the last few hundreds of years, witches and agricultural disruptions alike have become gradually less alarming prospects. Consequently, bring on the kitsch:
In the mid-19th century, children began to disguise themselves as witches on Maundy Thursday wearing headscarves, painting red circles on their cheeks, and carrying copper kettles. Then, Petrulis writes, they would go from house-to-house delivering handmade good-luck tokens, usually a sprig of pussy willows, in exchange for candy....
When lithography printers like Axel Eliassons in Stockholm began publishing holiday cards in the late 19th century, the Easter Witch—usually a happy elderly hag dressed like a Swedish farm wife in aprons and headscarves—became a standard character on often-comedic “Glad Påsk” (or “Happy Easter”) postcards. The printers also made smaller cards for the children to deliver.
The tradition apparently continues; here, watch this video, which is completely inexplicable to audiences that do not speak Swedish!