These birch twigs with colourful feather puffs wired to the ends are known as påskris or fastlagsris. In Stockholm we noticed these on front steps, in coffee shops and for sale at flower vendors. In Sweden Easter is a celebration to welcome spring. If påskris are purchased in advance of the official holiday (Friday-Monday, most take off Thursday too) and placed in water, the birch branch will open its leaves in time for the Easter festivities.
Similar to Christmas trees, påskris are decorated, with easter eggs, coloured paper flowers and cotton chicks replacing Santa, snowmen and stars. This seemingly pagan tradition became popularized across the country in the 1930s. However, as early as 1600 birch branches were used to playfully whip family members in remembrance of Christ’s suffering. The feathers weren’t incorporated until the 1800s, as a reference to the palm leaves strewn on the ground in front of Jesus as he entered Jerusalem.
I regret not spending Easter in Sweden to experience some of their other traditions; children dress up like witches, (in aprons and head scarves with painted rosy cheeks and freckles,) to trick-or-treat like our Hallowe'en. There are epic egg hunts in the countryside (sometimes maps and compasses are needed) and puff pastries to be eaten. Semiswede gives a nice overview of all the secular Easter activities.
Below are a few examples of decorated Påskris pulled from Aunt Peaches, delishhh, and A Swede in the kitchen.