June: arguably the most Swedish month of the year! A celebration of the national identity kicks off the Swedish celebrations on the 6th June, followed by graduation ceremonies all over the country, as Swedes say Hej då to school. But it’s Midsummer that’s the icing on the prinsesstårta, with merry-making around the maypoles of Sweden. Don’t miss the YLC guide on how to celebrate Swedish-style!
Sveriges nationaldag (Sweden’s national day): Thursday 6th June
Sweden’s National Day, also known as Swedish Flag Day, is celebrated on June 6th: the date that Gustav Vasa, founder of the modern nation-state was elected king of Sweden. Although it was only actually declared a public holiday as late as 2005, it’s found a special place in the hearts of Swedes and immigrants alike. Aside from general flag-waving and seeing the royal family in their coach on their way to Skansen, nationaldagen is significant as the day that applicants from all over the country actually receive their Swedish citizenship.
Most museums and parks have events on National Day – here are the YLC top (free!) favourites:-
National Day on the beach! – featuring magicians, flamenco dancing and music until late into the night
National Day at Bandängens Parklek – featuring the Aya Baya band, face-painting and pony riding
Barbeque at Hesselby Slott – grill day with sing-a-long and children’s activities
18th Century themed National Day at Drottningholms Palace – with troubadours and a parade – free entry to the Chinese Theatre for anyone dressed as princes/princesses!
Family National Day at Blecktornsparken – with rabbit hopping, face-painting and pony-riding
Skolavslutning (Graduation): Early/mid-June
Skolavslutning (graduation) is quite the ceremony in Sweden. Mostly held in churches or the school’s own premises, traditional hymns and songs relating to the summertime are relayed with gusto by each class completing their year at school. For those who are moving on to university, a job or into the great wide world, a particular Swedish phenomoenon occurs. Students dressed in their graduation outfits, complete with hats, drive an open trailer through the streets of the city, singing and rejoicing that school is over FOREVER.
: Friday, 21st June
The big daddy of the Swedish festivals; you’ve not been in Sweden long enough if you don’t yearn to celebrate the summer soltice (despite the rain, which usually puts in an appearance). Midsommarafton (always a Friday) involves full-on rituals, the most important centring on the midsommarstång, or maypole, covered with leaves and adorned with flowers, before it is raised and the dancing begins! Young and old alike sing traditional Swedish songs, in particular, Små grodorna, with accompanying actions. Wearing traditional costume is not a must, but it’s fun to get truly into the spirit of the thing. At least, make yourself a midsommarkrans, a wreath made of wild flowers to wear as a crown.
Dagens menu generally consists of herring and a lot of it, accompanied by the year’s first potatoes, beer and snaps (a lot of it). The first strawberries of the season also make an appearance, either in cake form or on their own with thick whipped cream. Drinking songs (snapsvisor) are very important at this feast; the bawdier the better. It’s a time when all inhibitions are put aside and you can truly get to know your countrymen and women.