National Day of extremes

It might be hard to see the point of having a national day if nobody celebrates, but it seems that many Swedes were distinctly unaffected by feelings of national pride on Sunday.

Aftonbladet reported that only a quarter of their readers intended to mark the day, with some saying that they prefer to celebrate Midsummer’s Eve, which falls later in June. One reader described the national day as a “gimmick to promote the royal family,” although the paper was happy to report that not all their readers were such party poopers.

Among those celebrating were Swedish expats around the world, including Annika in California, who was planning to celebrate “on the beach, thinking about herrings, salmon, polar bread, cider and O’boy, and singing the Swedish national anthem with strong Viking voices.”

One Swedish family guaranteed to be celebrating the national day was the Bernadottes. Monday’s DN reported that Crown Princess Victoria was on fine form, mixing with the crowds in the palace courtyard, as the Army’s field bakery served coffee and Danish pastries. Keen as ever to put on a show, the royal family later travelled in a carriage procession to Skansen to join in the traditional Swedish singalong.

If most Swedes were apathetic, Sweden’s political extremists seemed determined to mark the day in the way only they know best. Over a hundred right-wing extremists were arrested during clashes with left-wingers, despite police efforts to move the far-right group away from the city centre. The two groups came to blows in Gamla Stan, where the right-wingers from the Info 14 network threw stones and bottles at members of the left-wing Anti-fascist Action Group.

Among those caught up in the mêlée was a woman with a pram and a group of English tourists.

“It looked like some kind of entertainment, so we made our way towards it,” the tourists told DN. “We didn’t dream that we would end up in this kind of situation.”

If that’s what entertainment looks like in their part of England, it might be worth avoiding.

Perhaps one reason for Swedes showing so little national pride on their national day is that they don’t feel they have much to be proud about. That’s one conclusion of a survey published in Sunday’s DN, which showed that Swedes think their country is on a downward slope.

The 30-44 age group was particularly negative, with 61 believing that things will be worse for society in ten years time. Younger people, however, had a less jaded view of the future. Sixty-one percent of 16 to 29 year-olds believed people would have better lives ten years from now.

Perhaps there’s something to celebrate after all.