Sweden's National Day

Nationaldagen

National Day being celebrated in Sweden
National Day being celebrated in Norrköping (Photo from www.upplev.norrkoping.se/en/national-day/)

Swedes are very proud of their national identity and to celebrate it they have a National Day, when the whole country goes yellow and blue crazy.

When is it?

It is held on June 6th, the date on which Gustav Vasa was crowned King in 1523 and the day on which a new constitution was adopted in 1809.

Whose idea is it?

The original idea came from Artur Hazelius, who founded Skansen, the open-air museum in Stockholm. They have held national day celebrations there since the 1890s.

Swedish Flag Day

A poster for Swedish Flag Day from 1916
A poster for the first Flag Day in 1916 (Photo from Nordiska Museum)

In 1916 Hazelius's idea was officially adopted and 6 June became Swedish Flag Day in recognition of the fact that Sweden had acquired its own flag, following the dissolution of the union with Norway in 1905.

When did it become a National Day?

In 1983 it changed from being a Flag Day to a National Day.

Is it a röd dag?

Yes although it was only in 2004 that the Swedish Riksdag (Parliament) voted to make it a röd dag (red day/public holiday).

Are Swedes very patriotic?

National Day in Sweden as seen by an official Swedish website

This is a sensitive issue. Swedes don't want to be thought of as racist or xenophobic so they are wary of describing themselves as patriotic. The official website (sweden.se), says that Swedes are "not known for displaying their national pride". It's a sentiment that many Swedes would support. But in my experience Swedes are very patriotic. And that is a good thing. And that doesn't mean that they are racist of xenophobic.

Face-painting kings

Swedish football fans
Swedish football fans during Euro 2008. (Photo from The Guardian)

Proof that Swedes are patriotic comes from the fact that so many Swedes are keen to cover themselves in paint in their national colours. Old or young, male or female, few Swedes can go to an international football match to support their country without some face paint.

Swedish football fans
Photo from www.svenskafans.com

Any idea that Swedes are reticent about displaying their nationality is soon dispelled when you see Swedes at international football tournaments or during the Eurovision Song Contest! There is always a sea of yellow and blue!

Flag poles everywhere

Swedish flags fluttering in the breeze
Photo: pixphoto

In Sweden you are never far away from a flag. In the UK only public buildings normally have flag poles, but many Swedes have flag poles in their gardens. It is not an indication of any political allegiance, simply a statement of the fact that they are proud to be Swedish.

So what happens on Nationaldagen?

Princess Estelle on National Day
Princess Estelle wearing a traditional costume on Nationaldagen (Photo: www.kungahuset.se)

The main ceremony on nationaldagen is led by the Royal Family and takes place at Skansen. The Swedish flag is run up a mast and then children in traditional peasant costumes present the King and Queen with bouquets of summer flowers, often in yellow and blue!

Most large towns have a ceremony for Nationaldagen, such as the one at Olaiparken in Norrköping shown at the top of the page. (Norrköping is an attractive city about 140 km (85 miles) south west of Stockholm.)

These days special ceremonies welcoming new Swedish citizens are also held around the country on nationaldagen.

Is there any special food served on nationaldagen?

Elderflower cordial with bubbly

No! Early June is a time of unpredictable weather and so Swedes tend to choose something appropriate for the weather. Most will be hoping to spend the day outdoors and to enjoy a picnic or a barbecue.

If the weather has been good the elderflowers might have been early enough for Swedes to celebrate with some homemade fläderblomssaft (elderflower cordial/syrup) topped-up with some bubbly.

Strawberry cream cake

Swedes love strawberries and so nationaldagen provides a good excuse for indulging in a wonderful strawberry cream cake. More…

But whatever they serve, most Swedes will pop a yellow and blue flag into it somewhere!

John Duxbury

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