Sweden has not taken part in any of the wars of the modern era, which may explain the Swedes’ somewhat guarded attitude towards celebrating a national day. They are proud of their country but don’t seem to feel any great need to show it. Previously, 6 June was not a public holiday, and for many people the only sign that this was a special occasion was the decoration of buses with Swedish flags.
Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden and Queen Silvia on their way to the annual celebration at Skansen, Stockholm´s open-air museum. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/ScanpixCelebration with the Royal Family
Every year, the King and Queen take part in a ceremony at Skansen, Stockholm’s open-air museum, where the yellow and blue Swedish flag is run up the mast, and children in traditional peasant costume present the royal couple with bouquets of summer flowers.
These days, special ceremonies welcoming new Swedish citizens are held around the country on National Day.
The last time people in general took an active interest in Sweden as a nation-state was at the turn of the last century, when national-romantic winds were blowing through the country and folklore societies and local history museums were established. It was then that 6 June first became a day of celebration. The exact age of the Swedish flag is not known, but the oldest recorded pictures of a blue cloth with a yellow cross date from the 16th century. Photo: Sara Ingman/imagebank.sweden.se
Public holiday for the first time in 2005
In 2004, the Swedish Riksdag voted to make it a public holiday, which may cause people to become more interested in celebrating it. The final decision took decades to reach — various proposals had been bandied about under a succession of governments.
There are also groups lobbying for the introduction of an official National Pastry, and a National Dish, and for the key-fiddle (nyckelharpa) to be made the National Instrument. But even for ideas as innocent as these, arriving at a consensus has proved difficult.
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Po Tidholm is a freelance journalist and a critic with the Stockholm daily, Dagens Nyheter. Po Tidholm wrote the main sections about how we celebrate in Sweden today.
Agneta Lilja is a lecturer in ethnology at Södertörn University College, Stockholm. Agneta Lilja wrote the sections about the history of Swedish traditions and festivities.
The authors alone are responsible for the opinions expressed on this web page.
Translation: Stephen Croall/Lingon
Copyright: 2004 Agneta Lilja, Po Tidholm and the Swedish Institute. This text is published by the Swedish Institute on www.sweden.se.