Witches, cats and bunnies are out this Sunday, carrying willow branches ornamented with bright feathers and tissue paper. They might show up at your door, where they will recite a rhyme wishing you health for the following year. The youngsters will then expect Easter candy in trade for the branch, which you get to keep as a memory of their visit.
Reminiscent of the trick-or-treat tradition in the British Isles and North America, this practice is believed to be a mixture of Orthodox Easter blessing customs from Eastern Finland with pre-Christian rituals from Western Finland and Scandinavia.
In the northwestern region of Ostrobothnia, kids wait until the Saturday before Easter to partake in the tradition.
Unna Nummelin from Helsinki put her costume together in the morning, complete with an apron and a scarf for her head. A bit of red rouge on her cheeks and she is transformed into an Easter witch. The tradition requires that the children dress as witches, but in the last few decades, the dress code has been expanded to include all manner of costumes.
"I'm not nervous about it anymore. We'll just knock on doors until we run out of branches," she says.
Laura Larres was part of a three-person team that decorated branches for the big day.
"I had intended to prepare them during the youngest child's nap, but he didn't end up sleeping very long, so it ended up being a pretty hectic decorating process. I think this is a great tradition, even so. It is rewarded to see the children having fun," she says.. .