Whit hit

A government report has proposed that Sweden's national day, the 6th June, be made a full public holiday. But don't celebrate too soon - to make up for lost time, Whit Monday (this year on 31st May) will lose its holiday status.

Anita Gradin, the former foreign trade minister, was charged with looking into how 6th June could be made a so-called ‘red day’. But once the economists got their teeth into the problem, it became clear that an extra day off would cost the country “between 3 billion and 8.5 billion crowns in lost productivity”, according to Tuesday’s DN.

With ‘growth’ the government’s new watchword, the only solution was to axe one of the existing holidays. Religious leaders on Sweden’s Christian Council were invited to take their pick and they seem to have been quite unanimous in their indifference to Whit Monday.

“Frankly we’d rather not change any of the holidays,” the council’s general secretary, Sven-Bernhard Fast, told Tuesday’s GP. “But when we weigh them up, losing Whit Monday is least damaging to the church calendar.”

Misha Jaksic, a representative of Sweden’s Orthodox churches, agreed: “Whit Monday’s just a day off for us.”

So why the sudden urge to raise the profile of the national day – and what is the significance of 6th June?

The motivation is said mainly to be to strengthen Sweden’s national identity in an increasingly internationalised world, and DN referred to a desire “to fight the dark forces who have laid claim to the national flag.”

While 6th June is the day that Gustav Vasa was elected king in 1523, dissolving the union with Denmark and creating a unified and independent Swedish state, it holds far greater significance for Anita Gradin herself:

“For me 6th June has always meant the start of the school holidays,” she told DN.

But not everybody’s happy. DN and Aftonbladet both spotted the government’s sleight of hand in lengthening the working year of Sven Svensson.

Whit Monday, as the name suggests, always falls on a Monday and always means a day off work. 6th June, however, naturally falls on a different day every year, so in two years out of seven it will fall on a weekend, with no compensatory day off during the week.

Ingemar Göransson of the national association of trade unions told Tuesday’s Aftonbladet: “I think it’s a pretty daft idea. If they think it’s so important, they should grant us a proper day off and accept the consequences in terms of costs.”

Meanwhile, Karin Pilsäter of the liberal Folkparti and Lena Ek of the Centerparti have tabled an “anti-6th June” motion in parliament on the grounds that Gustav Vasa was a burner of books, destroyer of monasteries and a generally undeserving tyrant.

GP conducted an internet poll on the issue and published the results on Wednesday.

Only 27% of the 5,000 respondents agreed with the proposals – and 53% said they wanted both days as a holiday.