Friday, April 10, 2009

A Witchy Easter to you! Hyvää Pääsiästä

I love the header image - it really tickles my funny bone!

It says.... 'Pääsiäinen on täynnä yllätyksiä' - Easter is FULL of surprises!

Here is one surprise that you might not be aware of....Last Sunday was Palm Sunday and that is a BIG day for kids here in's similar to Halloween although unlike Halloween there are NOT lots of Tricks going on.. purely the treating aspect - although in the past, some have played tricks in other areas, I read!

The event is called 'Virpominen' or 'Virpoa' and it's the stand-out Finnish Easter tradition! The Finnish verb ‘Virpoa’ comes from the Russian ‘Verba’ meaning ‘Willow’ It has it's root in the Latin ‘Verbanae’ or ‘Holy branches’.

Apparently, it all started about 200 years ago as part of Karelian Orthodox religious customs. Belonging in part to Finland (pre WW2), it is nowadays in Russian territory. Gradually it travelled from Russian/Finnish areas to be merged with the then Finnish and Swedish tradition of children walking around between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, disguised as witches and ‘trullit’ (trolls). This was from the old belief that, with Jesus in his tomb, evil figures were free to move and haunt people.

Virpoa-ing on Palm Sunday, commemorates when Jerusalem greeted Jesus with palm branches on the road. Instead of palm branches, willow sprigs are used. (Much nicer and easier to get hold of around here... LOL!)

The children dress up as 'Witches' (although my husband reckons they look often more like female russian tractor drivers LOL). They carry Catkin branches, gaily decorated with coloured feathers, strips of crepe paper, coloured pipe cleaners and easter egg stick ons. They stand on the doorstep gently waving them in the air and then recite a Virvon poem

(For those interested in the Finnish language - The P in the word Virpoa changes to a V when you add an ending case to it. In this the ending A is removed, then there is the added N case (as in possessive) - like an English 'S would be. So Virvon = Virpoa's - Sort of!) Yep, it's an unusual language for sure!

The poem is a gift for good health in the coming year and then they ask - do have something for them? I love it. Every year I make lots of little mixed bags of sweets for the kids that call.

Here are some Easter Witches that visited in previous years (this year I didn't take photographs..I just enjoyed the event!) Here they are with their feather branches of Willow... as you can is also always still snowy at Easter...(although on the melt).

This is what they say...
"Onnentoivotus! Virvon, varvon! Tuoreeks, terveeks! Tulevaks, vuuveks! Vitsa sulle, palkka mulle!" (Good Luck Wishes! Virvon, varvon! Wishing you a fresh, healthy upcoming year! A sprig for you, a reward for me!) At least, that is what they say if the person is female, there are other versions, depending on if you are male or perhaps and elderly person.

You then have a lovely bunch of colourful twigs in your home (in my case they are too much of a tease for my they are generally put up high and away from them!) You must put them in water though, so that the buds of Catkins can bloom!

Another surprise is that here 'Good Friday' is 'Pitkä Perjantai' which translates LONG Friday!

Easter is in general, a really popular time here in Finland... lots of Easter decorations on sale, many houses are decorated with either real or fake springtide flowers. Tiimari, a Finnish dept store sells all manner of Easter things, wreaths that you can decorate yourself, with feathers, chicks, eggs etc. The slideshow below shows some of the pages of their magazine. Another popular thing to do is to buy a pack of seeds and grow grass in the house. Yes, odd isn't it! :D Egg painting is also very popular! You can buy polystyrene eggs for the kids to paint.

There are chocolate Easter eggs in the shops, but NOTHING like the UK ranges! They are generally small eggs, rarely do you see large ones..and it is quite uncommercialised in that they don't arrive on the shelves straight after Christmas, like they can in the UK! LOL....

As you can imagine Easter things also often feature Witches too, especially Easter cards or postcards as they generally are. Most people dont give cards here (really expensive here at around 4euros/£4 a hit! So, it is postcards instead!

Hyvää Pääsiästä! - Happy Easter!
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