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Swedes have taken up US Hallowe’en customs only very recently and half-heartedly, the whole thing being driven by merchants. But we do have something like trick-or-treating: the Easter Crone custom of Maundy Thursday.

Traditionally, there’s no Easter Bunny in Sweden. (My mother once shocked our American nanny by serving a rabbit for Easter dinner.) Instead the holiday is associated with witches, believed to make an annual broom-borne pilgrimage to Blue Mountain on Maundy Thursday. There, of course, they celebrate orgies with the Devil. (Don’t we all?) About 300 people were executed for the crime of witchcraft in Sweden between 1668 and 1676.

What children do is slightly more innocuous: they draw colourful Easter greeting cards, dress up as motley little witches (påskkärringar, “Easter crones”), and go round the neighbourhood ringing door-bells. Everyone who opens gets a card and an Easter greeting, and in return the kids expect some candy or a few coins. No threats of trickery are uttered or implied.

This year, my kids being 9 and 4, I borrowed the neighbour’s daughter and led the trio on their first Easter Crone raid. They weren’t terribly enthusiastic at first: the little one threw a tantrum over the clothes I offered her, and the big one was pretty embarrassed about the whole thing. But I had them make three cards each, taught them the script of the typical encounter, and off we went to neighbours we know.

They warmed to the thing pretty fast. The loot was adequate, enough to keep them munching along, and about half of the nine greeting-card recipients gave them money instead of candy. They ended up with the equivalent of ten or twelve dollars, most of which we promptly converted to candy at the grocery store once the kids had run out of greeting cards. Along the way to the store, we met other kids who told us how much they had netted, and there was a fine carnivalian mood all around. I enjoyed it too, particularly since I’m usually the stricter, schedule-driven parent in contrast to the kids’ more artistically minded moms.

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Comments

  1. #1 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    March 21, 2008

    Crones? I think it would be better if you had scones.

  2. #2 kai
    March 21, 2008

    Heh,
    the local kids here are apparently a bit more confused about the matter: I had two little girls calling on my door yesterday and when I suddenly opened the door they blurted out “Bus eller godis?” (Trick or treat?) but when I suggested the trick option they didn’t quite know what to do. They got some candy anyway and just now they called on my door again, selling Easter eggs, though they hadn’t figured out a price list yet. I bought one for a fiver.

    Now let’s see, is this the third photograph of you in drag?

  3. #3 Martin R
    March 21, 2008

    That’s Junior. The number of photographs of me in drag is so huge that there’s an entire section of mathematics dedicated to dealing with it.

  4. #4 Åsa
    March 21, 2008

    I just love that blog!

  5. #5 Wife
    March 21, 2008

    Don’t take all the credit, it was my suggestion! Oh, I love this pic, have you got more tosend me?

  6. #6 Bob O'H
    March 21, 2008

    The number of photographs of me in drag is so huge that there’s an entire section of mathematics dedicated to dealing with it.

    Lie theory?

  7. #7 ArchAsa
    March 21, 2008

    My daughter happily dressed up for kindergarten, my 3-year old son pointedly refused (he only ever want to dress up as a santa claus), though I was happy to see several boys in his group were wearing dresses and makeup.

    I have come to the realisation that modern houses are the biggest threat to the tradition, since nowadays you need a code just to get in the front door of an apartment building. This makes the whole process almost impossible at times. Fortunately our apartment is on the ground floor so when some of the neighbourhood kids came by we could open the front porch door and hand them our home made candy in thanks for the wonderful picture.

    Next year I’ll make more of an effort to take them out to knock on doors. But only if my son agrees on wearing drag (wasn’t a problem last year, so I hope this reticence is temporary…) ;-)

  8. #8 Amber
    March 21, 2008

    A wonderful picture! Good you followed them on their raid though. Maybe you got some candy too?

  9. #9 Pär
    March 21, 2008

    My creative ESL students suggested “Easter bitches” as a translation for “påskkärringar”. Considering the newly introduced choice of trick or treat, this might actually be closer to the truth.

  10. #10 Martin R
    March 21, 2008

    If they’re gonna be bitches, then I demand to be an Easter Bastard.

  11. #11 Larry Ayers
    March 22, 2008

    Wonderful photo of “Easter crones”, Martin!

  12. #12 eleanora
    March 22, 2008

    “and the big one was pretty embarrassed about the whole thing.”

    Yeah, I would be too, in that dress.
    What did you wear, Martin?

  13. #13 DuWayne
    March 22, 2008

    (My mother once shocked our American nanny by serving a rabbit for Easter dinner.)

    This is just too funny. My dad not being a big outdoorsman, when I wanted to learn to hunt, it fell upon a family friend. In his household, it was an annual tradition to go Easterbunny hunting the day before Easter. Just in case the hunt went south, he always had one in the freezer. My very first hunt was on the fated easterbunny hunt and I was so proud of my first kill that we ate “Easter”bunny the following day. I unintentionally traumatized my then four year old niece, when she overheard me talking about having killed the Easterbunny for dinner.

    The number of photographs of me in drag is so huge that there’s an entire section of mathematics dedicated to dealing with it.

    Ok, that roped me in. I just put your link on my bookmarks toolbar, for easy access.

    Many moons ago, when I was living a life of sex, drugs and playing loud music, I ended up staying in the home of a lesbian who decided to wash my filthy clothes. So when she suggested we wander down to the coffeehouse, she had to find me something to wear (a rather liberal sort of shop, but they still frowned upon nude patrons). Of course, the only thing she could find to clad my behind, was a light, long comfy skirt. I have been hooked since. Nothing better on a nice summer day, than traipsing through the tulips in a long light skirt, sans underpants.

    I also discovered that you can have the sex virtually anywhere, if you and your partner are wearing skirts.

    Instead the holiday is associated with witches, believed to make an annual broom-borne pilgrimage to Blue Mountain on Maundy Thursday. There, of course, they celebrate orgies with the Devil.

    Gods, no wonder the fundies hate you godless fucking Swedes. Except of course, when they shop at Ikea.

    (Don’t we all?)

    They do say the Devil has many dicks and orifices.

  14. #14 Martin R
    March 23, 2008

    Eleanora, the kids suggested that I should also dress up, and I half-intended to, but then conveniently forgot about it. Actually, I think their loot wouldn’t have been as big if people had seen a dad in drag grinning maniacally when they opened their doors.

    DuWayne, welcome aboard!

  15. #15 Mary
    March 26, 2008

    dude, you are awesome. if your whole weird little country as cool as you are? and i had forgotten the onion-peel trick.

  16. #16 Martin R
    March 26, 2008

    Hey Mary, thanks! Sweden is generally speaking not cool. More like ruggedly wholesome and common-sensical. I like it.

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