In the markets of Sweden you will see buckets and baskets filled with colorful feathers for Påskris. The feathers are tied to twigs and placed in a container. Much like a Christmas tree, you then can add decorations but this time they are all types of symbols of spring such as roosters, hens, birds of all kinds, butterflies, and of course, eggs as colorful as the feathers.
These colorful twigs with feathers have a not so cheerful story behind its origin. In the 1600’s Swedish people 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 decided to stop hitting each other and started to decorate the twigs and they became a symbolic decoration for Easter.
It’s been suggested that the feather twigs represent the palm leaves that were placed on the ground for Jesus’ donkey to walk on in his triumphant return to Jerusalem celebrated on Palm Sunday. Since there are as many palm trees in Sweden as there are in Minnesota (outdoor palm trees to be precise), this was the best they could do to imitate this tradition.
But since Easter Feathers really don’t look much like palm leaves there may be a couple other reasons for their use (that we are making up right now):
- It is a warning to all birds that if they chose to “drop” on the local wagons, carts, or Volvos they may find themselves in the same situation as their colorful companions.
- Much like Linus’ Great Pumpkin, these feathered twigs are offered to the Great Easter Spring Chicken to show her that we are worthy of the warmer weather and that under our parkas we bear clothing of radiant colors.
- It is an attempt to appease Höðr – the Nordic God of winter, who is not so keen on being pushed aside. Nor is Höðr pleased with the delight and happiness his leaving seems to bring to the natives.
Whatever the “truth” is, we love these Easter Trees and if you haven’t made one in the past we hope you will start a new tradition. When you do, send us a picture and we will post it.
Here is a YouTube video to help you create your Påskris.