So, it’s Birch bashing time in Sweden! Bundles of innocent-looking birch twigs, known in Swedish as Påskris, are now on sale in markets ready for the Easter ritual.
Not unsurprisingly, most if not all people nowadays refrain from what was once the tradition of bashing one another on the legs with Birch twigs; an activity geared to cause pain and act as a reminder of Christ’s suffering on the cross. In fact, the symbolic, religious significance seems over the centuries to have been completely lost in a bizarre haze of fluffy feathers.
Instead of flagellation, the Swedes now prefer to whack their birch twigs into a jug; which then takes pride of place amongst the Easter decorations. The Birch, picked just as they have come into bud, are then decorated with garish, brightly coloured feathers. Packs of these feathers are sold everywhere, and in every possible colour of the rainbow. Initially only available in hues of egg (cream, white, orange and yellow), the feathers now tend to reflect the latest interior decorating trends; the fashionable among us this year opting, apparently, for a simple palette rather than a riot of colours.
Many Swedes, in fact, don’t stop there and feel the need to adorn their twigs with mini hollow, painted eggs, ribbons, tiny chicks, cockerels and other Easter-related paraphernalia. Really it’s become a sort of Swedish version of a Christmas tree, but for Easter.
For those of us who live in the country, we have the added options of either:-
a) installing our feathered twigs outside so that the world and his wife can see them
b) decorating our bushes with feathers instead.
Somehow, I feel spoilt for choice.
Note to Selfie: Birch trees here I come – it’s PYI (pick-your-own) time in the forest!