Christmas, Midsummer and Lucia are all important holidays in Sweden. But there is one event that is bigger than them all: Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s Eurovision Song Contest.
The group stage of the six-week selection process where Swedes pick the star to represent them in the big finals kicks off on Saturday.
Here are some of the talking points ahead of Melodifestivalen mania. The Swedes are crazy for the competition, so just get on the bandwagon already. It's easier that way.
It was in 1974 when arguably Sweden’s most famous band ever, ABBA, brought the country its first win in Eurovision with ‘Waterloo’ at the final in the UK. It would take another 10 years before Sweden won the contest again, with the song ‘Diggi-loo Diggi-ley’ by the band Herreys.
Swedish Eurovision veteran Carola scooped the next victory in 1991 with ‘Fångad av en stormvind’ (literally translated, 'caught by a storm wind'). Next up was Charlotte Perelli in 1999 with ‘Take Me To Your Heaven’.
Loreen won both fans across Europe and the finals with ‘Euphoria’ in 2012 and it would not take long for Sweden to take home the contest again. In 2015, Måns Zelmerlöw won Eurovision with ‘Heroes’.
Should the Swedes scoop yet another victory this year, the country would come neck and neck with Ireland, which with seven wins under its belt, is the most successful country in Eurovision history.
Loreen won Eurovision in 2012 with 'Euphoria'. Photo: Osman Karimov/TT
2. It is not all smooth sailing
Thought Swedes seemed shy and friendly? Those rules don’t apply during Eurovision.
The rules state the songs must be kept secret up until the moment they are performed live on television. But in 2009 the popular Swedish boyband EMD risked being disqualified after singing a part of the song and showing some dance moves during a press conference, but were eventually allowed to stay.
Another big scandal was when former Eurovision winner, and gay icon, Carola landed herself in hot water when she said she believed homosexuality could be cured through prayer (she was eventually forgiven by gay Eurovision fans after years of atonement).
As recently as Thursday this week Swedish singer Anna Book and her lyricist Nordic Noir author Camilla Läckberg were thrown out of Saturday's competition, after it was revealed that their song had already competed in Moldavia, under a different name.
Book told followers on her Instagram account that she was "alone awake in a nightmare", asking "how will I move on?"
Eurovision is heavy stuff, people.
Anna Book's song already competed in Moldavia. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT.
3. It takes... a while
Sweden might prefer things to be 'lagom' ('just the right amount'), but during Melodifestivalen it's all or nothing. The nation is gripped by ceaseless excitement for six long weeks until they pick their Eurovision entry in the final.
The first part kicks off this Saturday, February 6th, in Gothenburg. Then the whole spectacle will move to Malmö the following weekend, before hitting Norrköping on February 20th, and Gävle on February 27th.
Swedes believe in second chances, so there's a extra competition for all the best losers in Halmstad on March 5th.
The Melodifestivalen final takes place in Stockholm on March 12th.
Swedish artist and tv host Gina Dirawi will host Eurovision in Sweden. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT.
4. Some of the hits you should learn to sing
Apart from winners such as 'Waterloo', 'Euphoria' and 'Heroes', Sweden's Melodifestivalen has produced a fair share of hits in Sweden over the years. Songs like 'Det gör ont' by Lena Philipsson, 'När vindarna viskar mitt namn' by Roger Pontare and 'Satellit' by Ted Gärdestad will make even non-Eurovision fans hum along.
The Local has made a Spotify list to help you catch up on the winners through the years 1958-2015. If you don't do it now, rest assured that your Swedish friends will make you.
Yes. This is a former Melodifestivalen winner (Roger Pontare, in 2000). Photo: Mark Earthy/TT.
Article by Emma Lidman