Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Origin of the Easter tree

In Sweden, they don't only have Christmas trees, they also have Easter trees. The Easter tree is a handful of twigs and sticks (usually birch)in a vase with coloured feathers attached to the ends. Some people hang eggs. Some people hang chickens.

The Easter tree, or 'påsk ris', can be seen all over the country this time of year. Outside shop entrances, in peoples' living rooms, outdoors in the neighbours' gardens.

The Easter tree is an interesting cultural phenomena. In fact, all products of a society are. This is because they originate somewhere and, often, we have forgotten the origin but still maintain the product or behaviour.

What's the origin and symbolism of the Easter tree then?

Well, some Swedes say that it symbolises the wiping away the winter. The twigs represent a broom and the feathers get caught in the broom as we sweep.

Others say that it represents witchcraft. The twigs represent a witch's broomstick and the feathers indicate flight. This could also be why Swedish kids dress up as witches at Easter and do a kind of 'trick or treating' for Easter eggs.

But, apparently the Easter tree has a completely different origin and symbolism. It comes from the 1600's. Swedish people in the 1600's used to take twigs and sticks and beat each other with them on Good Friday to commemorate the suffering of Jesus. In the 1800's and 1900's, they started to be decorated and became a symbolic decoration for Easter.

So, wiping, witching or whipping. Who would have thought the colourful Easter tree would have such a colourful history?


  1. Thank you for teaching me, a Swede, where our Easter tree origin from! :-)
    I like what you write. You write in a funny way and even though most of it is true (I have to say most of it, I can't agree with you completely:-)there's no way anyone can be offended!

  2. I think it also has to do with a kind of bringing frech flowers to your home in a cheep way. I mean, the birch is brought home when there are no leaves on it, and we put the coloured feathers in it so it looks like a bouquet of flowers no? and after that the leaves are coming out after some days inside in the warm houses.
    And I think its nice. Glad Påsk till er alla./ Happy Easter to all of yuo.

  3. Thanks for sharing, you have inspired me to have an Easter Tree in my home this year as the weather is so gloomy here in the UK at present I need some colour back in my life & what better war to do it than this?! X

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    1. Traditionen att dekorera bara grenar på träd och buskar med påskägg på våren är en mycket gammal tradition i TYSKLAND med osäkert ursprung.

      Also what you describe with the witches. Sound more like traditions of walpurgis night(also a German festival)

  5. Easter tree's aren't Swedish in origin though, its ancient origins lies in Germany ;) Germany has had a extremely long, (pre Christian) history of decorating trees with eggs around spring. This tradition likely flew over to other Germanic countries.

    1. Sorry for bad English. I'm not native speaker.