In the middle of Sweden’s ‘Tranquil Week’

Did you know that today is ‘Dymmelonsdag’ – Clapper Wednesday? It is part of Sweden’s ‘Stilla Veckan’, which literally translates as ‘tranquil week’ or ’quiet week’. It is historically intended to be a week of reflection and melancholy leading up to Easter. In English this week is known as Holy Week and every day has a special name.

Last Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, is called ’Palmsöndag’ – Palm Sunday. According to scripture, it commemorates Jesus’ triumphant arrival into Jerusalem. The crowds threw palm branches in front of him as he approached.

The Monday before Easter is commonly called Blå Måndag – Blue Monday – although it can have other names. The Tuesday before Easter is called ‘Vittisdagen’ (White Tuesday). Both Blue Monday and White Tuesday were originally four weeks before Easter. At some point in history, they were moved to describe the Monday and Tuesday before Easter instead. Blue Monday refers to the colour that church rooms were painted on this day. Since White Tuesday is an old name for Shrove Tuesday, Fettisdag in Swedish, it probably refers to the flour that was used to make the Lent buns.

That takes us to today – the Wednesday before Easter – ‘Dymmelonsdag’. This literally translates as ‘Clapper Wednesday’. The clapper that this is referring to is a wooden clapper that was traditionally put inside the church bells on this day so that the chimes would have a more subdued, mournful sound during Easter weekend.

The Thursday before Easter is called ‘Skärtorsdag’ in Swedish. This translates as ‘Clean Thursday’ and refers to the ritual of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples before the Last Supper. In English, this day is called Maundy Thursday.

The Friday is called Good Friday in English – from an obsolete meaning of the word good as being holy. In Old English, this day was called Long Friday, which is the name that was adopted in Swedish – ‘Långfredag’.

And finally, the weekend arrives consisting of Holy Saturday which is called ’Påskafton’ in Swedish – Easter Eve. Then comes ‘Påskdagen’ – Easter Sunday, and ‘Annandag påsk’ (literally second day Easter) – Easter Monday in English.

So Clapper Wednesday is not about fervent clapping, or going like the clappers, or getting the clap. Instead, take a moment of quiet reflection on this, the most holy of Wednesdays.

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