• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

The lowdown on Sweden's National Day

The Local · 5 Jun 2014, 10:45

Published: 05 Jun 2014 10:45 GMT+02:00

When you hear the words "National Day", you'd be forgiven for thinking it's all about age-old traditional rituals, with raw fish and copious amounts of akvavit.

But it's not. Alright, many people use the occasion as an excuse to bring forth the herring and a bottle of something potent, but 'Den sjätte juni' is hardly a date that trips off a Swedish tongue in the way that Quatorze Juillet does in French. Born on the Sixth of June will never have quite the same patriotic ring as Born on the Fourth of July.

In fact, Swedes didn't even get a day off for it until 2005. For most people, it's just a welcome day off in the early summer, especially when it falls on a Friday and offers a long weekend.

But if it happens to fall on a weekend, that's tough cheese for you. This is a sore point for many Swedes, who preferred the old holiday Whit Monday - the day after Pentecost. This always gave a nice long weekend. Since National Day replaced Whit Monday, the holiday gets swallowed up by the weekend roughly twice every seven years.

But what exactly is it supposed to celebrate?

A more difficult question to answer than you might expect. Unlike other countries, which have anniversaries of independence or revolutions to commemorate, Sweden has never been occupied and has never got rid of its monarchy.

If you ask a Swede, they'll probably mumble something vague about Gustav Vasa.

The day does indeed coincide with the anniversary of Gustav Vasa's election as Sweden's king in 1523, marking the end of the union with Denmark and the start of a new period of closer unity within Sweden. This day was celebrated from the 19th century as a national day of commemoration.

June 6th was also the day in 1809 on which Sweden adopted a new constitution, something it did again on the same date in 1974. From the 1890s, the Skansen open air museum in Stockholm started organizing patriotic celebrations on June 6th. In 1916, the day became The Swedish Flag Day.

Who decided to make it into Sweden's National Day?

National Day was first recognized officially by the government in 1983, but it only became a public holiday in 2005, after years of debate. The official hope was that it would be a day of unity for the Swedish people. Others saw it as a sop to industry, who would now be able to squeeze more working days out of the masses in the name of patriotism.

I want to join in the celebrations - how should I do this in a typically Swedish way?

The truth is, there are no real traditions yet. Dancing round Maypoles is really reserved for Midsummer, later this month. Until it became a public holiday, the only visible signs of National Day were the flags flying in people's gardens and from buses and trams.

These days, the royals celebrate the day by taking a carriage procession from the Royal Palace in Stockholm to Skansen. The Swedish flag is raised and bouquets are given to the Queen and princesses.

A growing tradition is for town halls up and down the country to hold citizenship ceremonies for new Swedish passport holders - in fact, this is often the aspect of National Day that attracts the most media coverage.

Is that all?

Well, unfortunately not. The other groups who like to mark National Day are right-wing and left-wing extremists. Police are expected to be out on force on the big day to keep the rival groups apart. Reports of assaults usually accompany the celebrations in Stockholm.

Don't like the sound of that - what should I do instead?

Do what many Swedes do whenever there's something to celebrate: buy a few jars of herring (in a sauce of your choice), a bottle of O.P. Andersson snaps, boil a few potatoes and serve up a punnet of strawberries (Swedish of course). Serve them in the garden, or – more traditionally – in your kitchen after the rain forces you to abandon the pretence that Sweden has a Mediterranean climate.

Story continues below…

If that sounds like too much bother, do what many other Swedes do on National Day: nothing at all. You, like them, can use the day to assemble Ikea furniture, lounge about in the sun or catch up on much-needed sleep.

Let the celebrations begin!

IN PICTURES: The royal family at last year's National Day at Skansen

James Savage

Follow James on Twitter

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
 Ibrahimovic 'will not go to Manchester United' - agent
Ibrahimovic is pondering his next move. Photo: TT

According to Mino Raiola, the agent of Swedish superstar footballer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, his client will not be heading to Old Trafford to link up with Jose Mourinho, Manchester United's new manager.

More flight delays hit Swedish airport
For some flights, the problems have led to up to two hours of delays. Photo: TT

Travellers at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport were beset again with delays on Saturday afternoon after technical problems with flightplan management software.

Video
The top reactions to Swedish high heels handyman video
Andersson was in agony after a day of laying floors in high heels. Photo: Emil Andersson

What did The Local's readers think about this viral clip challenging sexist beauty ideals?

Transport authorities call for probe into tech glitch
SAS aircraft grounded at Arlanda airport last week. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

But officials say it was not sabotage that caused last week's network failure, which knocked out large parts of Swedish air traffic.

Why northern Swedes get the hots for sex toys
File photo of handcuffs. Photo: Gunnar Lundmark/SvD/TT

Where in Sweden do people buy the most sex toys? Kiruna in the far north, apparently.

Royal baptism day for Sweden's Prince Oscar
Prince Oscar with Archbishop Antje Jackelén. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

UPDATED: Royalty, dignitaries and other esteemed figures took to Stockholm's Royal Chapel for the ceremony.

Giant replica of Swedish 18th century ship up for sale
The Götheborg setting sail from Stockholm in 2008. Photo: Claudio Bresciani / TT

A replica of a doomed Swedish merchant vessel that sank in 1745 within sight of its home port of Gothenburg has been put up for sale.

Border checks
First migrants make it from Denmark to Sweden on foot
The Öresund bridge between Sweden and Denmark. Photo: Erland Vinberg/TT

Dozens of attempts have been made, but this is the first successful crossing since Sweden introduced ID and border checks.

Brexit
Poll: Swedes are worried about Brexit consequences
The possibility of Brexit has Swedes worried about the EU's future. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT

Swedes are worried about what may happen both at home and abroad if Britain votes to leave the EU in June.

The Local Recipes
Fend off the bad weather with a Swedish beetroot salad
Beetroot salad with cumin and feta. Photo: John Duxbury/Swedish Food

Rain, rain, go away.

Sponsored Article
How to find student housing in Malmö: 5 tips
Gallery
The best, cutest and funniest snaps from Prince Oscar's christening
Sponsored Article
Can you afford to live in Stockholm? (Hint: yes)
Travel
Is this town the best place in Sweden?
Gallery
People-watching: May 25th
Blog updates

27 May

Editor’s blog, May 27th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, Would you spend a day doing manual labour in high heels? That’s what Swedish…" READ »

 

17 May

What about “att”? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! It often seems like the small words are the ones that cause the most confusion.…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
Society
WATCH: Why Swedish handyman wore pink high heels for feminism
Sponsored Article
Stockholm makes it easier for refugees to meet startups
Sport
LIST: Top-ten ridiculous things Zlatan has compared himself to
Business & Money
Why Swedes don't want the euro
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Vika, Falun
Sponsored Article
Food, fun, and reliable sun: Summer in Dubrovnik
National
Is this the most Swedish tattoo ever?
Sponsored Article
How Stockholm startups help new employees feel at home
Gallery
People-watching: May 20th-22nd
National
How to really annoy a Swede abroad
Sponsored Article
'Only soft power can defeat radicalism'
National
How this war veteran is warming hearts in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Why Stockholm attracts so many successful researchers
Gallery
People-watching: May 18th
National
How this Swede's viral ad totally nailed Stockholm's housing crisis
Gallery
Property of the week: Vasastaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
Lifestyle
The best Swedish cities for dating
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Gallery
People-watching: May 13th-15th
Sponsored Article
Can you afford to live in Stockholm? (Hint: yes)
Culture
BLOG: Eurovision as it happened
National
Why a 116-year-old Swede isn't the world's oldest woman
National
Youth unemployment falls in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: May 11th
Gallery
People-watching: May 6th-8th
Politics
Why Sweden's Greens are in free fall
National
Can these cartoon Swedes help foreigners blend in?
3,350
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se