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Thursday, 2 April 2015

CULTURE - A Swedish Easter

If you are lucky enough to be invited to spend Easter with Swedish friends, be prepared for visual and gastronomic treats! Imagine a Smörgåsbord - with all its connotations of abundance and variety - delightfully laden with herring, eggs, spirits, snapps on a table simply decorated in the midst of a gathering of family and friends, and you will be close to realising a traditional Swedish Easter.

Along with the traditional pickled fish, there is often a creamy casserole of potato, onion and anchovy called Janssons Frestelse and in the month before Easter a delicious dessert called semlor - a cardamom spiced soft bun filled with almond paste and freshly whipped cream. The Swedes have a love of eggs all year round, but at Easter there are eggs of all shapes, sizes and types to be found! And if these aren't to be eaten, then beautifully painted, or dipped hard boiled eggs are used to decorate the birch branches found in many Swedish homes at Easter.

Birch twigs or påskris, serve as a reminder of the suffering of Christ, and were traditionally used by young people to lash each other on Good Friday, although they are now just used decoratively. Children love to hang pretty eggs and feathers on the birch twigs - eggs symbolic of rebirth, and the feathers signifying the end of Winter - although there are often small toy witches hanging too!

The Swedish Easter Witches are steeped in history and tradition, but much like Halloween have become more of a game or event that the children take part in. Girls happily dress up as witches, with oversized skirts, shawls, head scarves and aprons; faces painted with freckles and red cheeks and then go door to door with a copper kettle collecting treats. They may have drawn Easter cards to offer in exchange for chocolate or candy.

 
This tradition comes from an old belief that witches would fly to a fictitious German mountain called Blåkulla on the Thursday before Easter to party with the devil. People would light bonfires to scare the witches away as they flew back from their cavorting - something that is still marked today with fireworks in the days leading up to Easter Sunday. Until fairly recently it was still common to hide or lock away all tools such as brooms, shovels and sticks that could be used by witches to fly on, to prevent them from getting to Blåkulla. The tops of church towers were believed to be places where the witches would stop and rest on their journey to the mountain on Maundy Thursday, and as tradition tells it - the best place and time to look for a witch!


The birch twig tradition has inspired me to make my own Easter decoration, although I have used a twig 'tree' rather than birch twigs and crocheted some eggs to hang with a few pretty feathers too. I used small amounts of Naturally Soft Merino in Snow, Lilac Blossom, Petal, Daisy Yellow, Putty Grey, Seaside and Forget-me-not with snow as the main colour and the others just for the bottom half of each egg to make them look as though they have been dipped. I used a 3mm hook to give a nice firm fabric and the polystyrene egg 'inners' are 70mm - I bought mine from Hobbycraft at £1.25 for 3.


 
I am including the pattern for the crocheted eggs here, although I must first say it isn't a MillaMia pattern and has only been tested by me - so feel free to use it at your own risk!

DIPPED EGGS

Foundation Ring: Using colour A (snow), a 3mm hook and leaving a long tail approx. 30cms long, Ch 4 and join with a sl st to form a ring.
Round 1: Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 3 dc into ring (4dc).
Round 2: 2 dc into each dc to end (8 dc).
Round 3: *1 dc in next dc, 2 dc in next dc* 4 times (12 dc).
Round 4: *1 dc in next 2 dc, 2 dc in next dc* 4 times (16 dc).
Round 5: *1 dc in next 3 dc, 2 dc in next dc* 4 times (20 dc).
Round 6: *1 dc in next 4 dc, 2 dc in next dc* 4 times (24 dc).
Round 7: *1 dc in next 5 dc, 2 dc in next dc* 4 times (28 dc).
Round 8: *1 dc in next 6 dc, 2 dc in next dc* 4 times (32 dc).
Round 9: *1 dc in next 7 dc, 2 dc in next dc* 4 times (36 dc).
Rounds 10-15: 1 dc in each dc to end.

Change to colour B (contrast of your choice) and fit crochet over your polystyrene egg. You will now crochet the remainder with the 'egg' inside.

Round 16: *dc2tog, dc in next 16 dc* 2 times (34 dc).
Round 17: 1 dc in each dc to end.
Round 18: *dc2tog, dc in next 15 dc* 2 times (32 dc).
Round 19: 1 dc in each dc to end.
Round 20: *dc2tog, dc in next 6 dc* 4 times (28 dc).
Round 21: *dc2tog, dc in next 5 dc* 2 times (24 dc).
Round 22: *dc2tog, dc in next 4 dc* 2 times (20 dc).
Round 23: *dc2tog, dc in next 3 dc* 2 times (16 dc).
Round 24: *dc2tog, dc in next 2 dc* 2 times (12 dc).
Round 18: dc2tog to end.

Leave a long tail, thread needle and draw stitches up to close the small hole at the bottom of the egg.
Stitch in all ends.
Using the long cast on tail, ch 30 to create the hanging loop at the top of the egg. Secure to main body with a sl st and fasten end securely.

Lastly, you may want to give your home a little more Swedish flavour this Easter and so I have a pattern pick of the best witch patterns I could find on Ravelry! Of course, these will be just perfect for Halloween later in the year too . . .



'Witch' by Sarah Gasson costs just £1
 





'Jazzy the Good Witch' by Sayjai Thawornsupacharoen costs $4.99 / £3.45 approx.

 Glad påsk - Happy Easter!
(posted by Max)

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