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Easter Holidays at Skansen

If you visit us at Easter, you can see how people have celebrated, eaten and decorated their homes at Easter over the years in several of Skansen’s houses.

  • The Easter period

    Did you know that the period we call Easter actually consists of three different parts? Shrovetide, Lent and Easter itself, which falls on Easter Sunday. Throughout the ages, Easter has been associated with different symbols and ceremonies that have influenced how Easter has been celebrated in Sweden in various ways – both then and now.

    Shrovetide and Lent

    Shrovetide lasts for three days and takes place 49–47 days before Easter. Shrovetide traditionally involved feasting and games, and ended with Shrove Tuesday, when people would feast on fatty food before the upcoming fasting period. In the early 20th century, many schools closed for Shrove Tuesday so children could go tobogganing, skiing or ice skating.
    When Shrovetide ends, Lent begins. Lent begins 46 days before Easter, as all major Catholic festivals are preceded by 40 days of fasting (plus six Sundays). The rules about Lent disappeared with the Reformation in the 16th century, but Lent was still observed in many parts of Sweden in the 20th century. People ate less and practised restraint – as a rule, there were no weddings or festive celebrations, and it was thought that getting married during Lent could result in unhappiness and a life of poverty.

    Holy Week

    Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter. The name comes from the fact that palm branches were strewn before Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on this day. Palm Sunday is thus the beginning of the last week of fasting before Easter. It is also known as Holy Week, and commemorates Jesus’ suffering.
    Holy Wednesday is the Wednesday before Easter. The day signifies Easter peace, which should begin with silence. Holy Wednesday is known in Swedish as ‘Dowel Wednesday’, after the practice of wrapping church bell clappers with cloth or replacing the iron clappers with wooden ones – dowels – to create a dull ringing. The time between Holy Wednesday and Easter Eve was a period of seriousness, and no work was to be carried out.

    Easter weekend

    Maundy Thursday was the day when Jesus gave the first Holy Communion, the Passover. Later that night, he was betrayed by Judas and, according to folklore, evil forces were released at the moment when Jesus was sentenced. The night of Maundy Thursday was therefore also considered to be witches’ night. The Swedish name for Maundy Thursday means ‘Cut Thursday’, from ‘cut’ in the sense of ‘purification’ – this was a day of absolution. Maundy Thursday was made a public holiday in the calendar reform of 1772.

    The Swedish name for Good Friday means ‘Long Friday’. For children – and no doubt for many adults – Good Friday felt like the longest day of the year. All the shops were closed, the radio played solemn music, and play and work were out of the question. This is the day of Jesus’ crucifixion and a great day of mourning. Up until 1969, public entertainment was banned on Good Friday.

    Easter Eve is the last day of Lent. Although the ‘happy’ Easter did not begin until Easter Sunday, this was a day for cleaning and washing, and for gathering around the fire to ‘shoot’ and scare the Easter witches.

    Easter Day was the day of Jesus’ resurrection and a day of joy – a time to celebrate the end of the serious times!

    On Easter Monday, the prohibitions of Lent and the silence were definitely over. Now, people could throw parties, play and dance!