Children sank their teeth into sweet rolls, dressed as Easter witches and decorated branches Sunday at the Scandinavian Easter Workshop.

Yes, witches.

“Swedes have some different ideas. On Good Friday (children) dress up like witches and old men and ask for candy,” said Helene Leaf, event coordiantor of the American Scandinavian Association at Augustana.

The event took place at First Lutheran Church, Rock Island, with craft-making opportunities that opened a window to customs associated with Easter in Scandinavian countries. Costumes were available for those who wanted to dress up as the witches or old men.

“We start with collecting Easter branches. They’re decorated

with flowers and ribbons and feathers,” Leaf said.

The limbs, called paskris, are cut from lilacs or birch trees and are sometimes painted gold. They then are taken home and put in water so blooms can appear.

Don Youngberg of Moline showed how to make sweet buns, or semlor, traditionally eaten during Lent.

“Now, it’s good luck to eat the center part,” he said with a smile as he showed how to scoop out the soft inside. Dollops of almond paste and whipped cream were added, creating a tasty treat.

Greg Johnson, president of the local American Scandinavian Association chapter, said the group puts on about eight events a year to promote relations and culture between the United States and the five Nordic countries and preserve Nordic heritage in Western Illinois and Eastern Iowa.

Johnson admits he didn’t celebrate his Swedish background until about three years ago. His mother is involved in genealogy and traced the family roots to Sweden. His son visited there last year and met a sixth cousin who took him sightseeing.

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