A lot of my posts over the last couple of months have had something to do with holidays, which might give you the impression that this country has a lot of random celebrations. This impression would be 100% true.
Not only that, there is an incredible number of Christian holidays in this ambivalent-towards-religion country. For example, last Thursday was Kristi Himmelsfärds Dag, or Ascension Day in English. This holiday celebrates, as we all know, the ascension of Jesus into heaven, which occurred forty days after he rose from the dead on Easter. As far as I can tell, the biggest celebrations taking place that day were by university students who had finished their last exams the day before—not the most pious of celebrations, might I add.
Most adorable baby in Swedish folk costume ever! Photo from littlescandinavian.com
Fast forward to today: National Day. I’m imagining fireworks, parades, marching bands, orchestrated explosions…
Not so much. I’ve asked a lot of friends about National Day–what it means and how they’ll celebrate–and the response has been the equivalent of a collective “Meh.” People are not that into it! Not exactly what I expected.
As it turns out, National Day is one of the few holidays in Sweden without much history or tradition. It only became an official holiday in 2005, which is part of why people are at a loss as to how to celebrate it. No one grew up with it, and it seems a little forced in comparison to all the other longstanding holidays. Before 2005, National Day was just called “Flag Day,” and you didn’t get time off from work for it, which obviously means its not much of a holiday.
As for the date, usually chosen for meaningful reasons, it commemorates both the election of Gustav Vasa as King in 1523, which “laid the foundation of Sweden as an independent state,” and the ratification of the 1809 Constitution, which established civil rights and liberties. Both fine things, but sort of lacking the punch and rah-rah value of, say, kicking the British back across the Atlantic, storming the Bastille, or something of that nature.
Plus, for some reason Swedish people seem a little skeptical of the whole “overt nationalism” thing that goes along with a national day. It’s one thing to get all “Well, yes, we solved poverty and invented Skype and if only you would let us be in charge of the UN we could probably fix the world too.” It’s another to march around saying “Boo-yah Sweden.” I don’t quite follow the reasoning, but when you are persistent in asking questions about this you hear some mutters about right wing parties and not wanting to be associated with bad people. It seems like there’s this quietly-enforced restraint in celebrating “Swedishness” too vehemently.
By far the most exciting part for me are the folk dresses. The royal family always celebrates in Stockholm, and Queen Silvia totally rocks a Swedish folk dress. Thank goodness for Lola being in Stockholm to document the royal family Swedish folk dress mania… wish I could have been there to see it myself. Instead, I just got to daydream about the dress I’m going to buy my poor first born when the time comes. How cute is that little baby??