• 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
Sweden’s high-speed trains the least punctual in Europe
One of Sweden's high-speed trains during a delay in Stockholm. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

It seems the Swedes are not quite so efficient after all.

Refugee crisis
Asylum seekers leaving Sweden in record numbers
The Swedish Migration Agency offices in Solna. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

The large number of asylum seekers leaving Sweden in 2016 coincides with a dramatic fall in the number seeking asylum in the country compared to last year.

Long-term damage seen from brain injuries: Swedish study
A model of the human brain. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

A study carried out in Sweden suggests that youths who suffer traumatic brain injuries are more likely to experience long-term psychological and social problems.

The Local List
30 Swedish movies you must see before you die
Thomas Hedegran and Rolf Lassgård in thriller The Hunters. Photo: Photo: Per Pettersson/TT

Film buff Christian Ekvall picks out 30 definitive Swedish movies you must see to understand the soul of the country's cinema.

Malmö police catch car arson suspect in the act
Another car blaze earlier this month. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Malmö police have arrested a man after they caught him setting a vehicle alight in the Rosengård district as the city's spate of summer car fires continued.

Swedes find out how birth control affects your sex life
Swedish birth control pills. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Swedish researchers have investigated whether or not contraceptives affect women's sex lives.

Analysis
Gothenburg grenade blast is 'part of a cycle of violence'
Police investigators at the scene of the grenade blast in Gothenburg. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

The Local speaks to two crime experts about why an eight-year-old boy became the latest victim of gang-related conflicts in Gothenburg.

Trump accuses Ericsson of bribing Hillary Clinton
Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Ohio. Photo: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

US presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke about the Swedish telecom giant at a campaign rally in Ohio.

Sorrow for boy killed in Gothenburg gang attack
The window of the Biskopsgården apartment broken by a grenade. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

The eight-year-old killed when a grenade was thrown into the window of an apartment is reported to be a resident of Birmingham, England.

Homes
In pictures: eight of Sweden's most colourful homes
Don't be afraid of colour. Photo: Wrede Fastighetsmäkleri

Tired of Scandinavian black and white design? Houzz.se's Amanda Strömberg guides you to some inspiring colourful homes in Sweden – because they do exist.

Sponsored Article
Malmö to host global skateboard championship
Gallery
Property of the week: Karlsborg
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
Watch this dog's reaction when she tries Swedish fermented herring
Gallery
People-watching: August 19th-21st
Blog updates

26 July

A summer of change; a summer of beauty (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"You would have had to try hard to miss the political upheavals in the UK after…" READ »

 

22 July

After the horror, carry on regardless (Globally Local) »

"This time last week, we were just digesting the horror of the Nice killings, in which…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
The mystique of Asia - in the middle of Stockholm
National
How to find student housing in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Why you should learn to trade (and just how easy it is)
National
VIDEO: Swede films first Northern Lights of the season
Gallery
People-watching: August 17th
Society
Swedish population nears ten million
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
The Local Voices
This Syrian artist found love in a Swedish library
Sponsored Article
'Sweden's Lauryn Hill' touches the country's musical soul
National
Sex pigs halt traffic after laser attack on Pokémon teens. Only in Sweden.
Gallery
Property of the week: Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
Society
Drunk knight detained in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
Can you solve this Swede's strange Star Wars mystery?
Gallery
People-watching: August 12th-14th
Sponsored Article
Five easy ways to travel more often
National
Swedes cheer first snow of the season
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Gallery
People-watching: August 10th
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
The Local Voices
Syrian presenter: Swedish media should make more shows in Arabic
Travel
Watch the meteor shower in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Lifestyle
How to survive a crayfish party
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Gallery
IN PICS: Your Sweden summer snaps
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
National
Why are fewer foreign graduates staying in Sweden to work?
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Culture
This Swedish street artist's incredible murals will make your jaw drop
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
Gallery
Property of the week: Östersund, Jämtland
The Local Voices
'Swedes have the right to decide what's best for their nation'
The Local Voices
Gabriel mastered Swedish and got accepted onto a medicine degree in just 7 months
The Local Voices
The Jewish Syrian who dreams of rebuilding his country
3,354
jobs available