Sunday, June 7, 2015

5 Ways Sweden Could Celebrate their National Day - if they cared

Princess Estelle 
When it comes to celebrating patriotism, we are somewhat disappointed in the way that Swedes go about celebrating - or ignoring - their own national holiday. June 6th was deemed Sweden's Nationaldag only about 10 years ago, so it's a relatively new holiday. Even still, Swedes approach this day as they would any other normal day. There are no BBQs, no parades, no fireworks, basically nothing to distinguish this day from any other. Only a few houses put out their Swedish flags in honor of the former flag day. Why? The Local had an article about why so many Swedes ignore National Day which touches on why most Swedes approach this day with such apathy.

I spoke with our neighbors and they said it would be most Swedish to ignore the day completely since it isn't rooted in any history and they don't have any traditions. Why not have fun with a made up holiday? Geez, Americans do it all of the time. In fact, we borrow other countries' holidays and Americanize them just so we have more fun ways to celebrate. If the holiday falls on a weekday, we celebrate it the following Saturday but we would never just ignore a holiday - even one that is artificially created. Are Americans just designed to celebrate? Who doesn't love a good party?!?

Being the flag-flying patriotic American that I am, I've brainstormed up a few ways in which Swedes could celebrate their National Day and create some new traditions. Being Swedish is pretty great, in my opinion, and it's time to embrace that even if it's just one day a year.

1. Give everyone the day off 
This year, National Day fell on a Saturday but Sweden didn't turn it into a 3-day weekend. Instead, they gave everyone a flex holiday to take whenever they wanted. That's great and all but it doesn't allow people to take a long weekend to visit their country house or make plans with friends and family like ALL of the other holidays provide. Give the people an actual day off and people are more likely to celebrate or make plans that result in traditions.

2. Schedule a community event - a 10K race + parade 
The 10K race, Osterakersmilen, was scheduled for 6pm on Friday June 5th. WHY NOT HOLD IT ON JUNE 6TH?!? Absolutely nobody is doing anything on June 6th and it happens to be National Day. This was a major opportunity lost, in my opinion. You already have a group of runners who love running in the 10K race every June, why not turn it into a really fun family-friendly holiday tradition? Add in a parade after the race and now you really have a celebration! Every community could organize something of this nature.

3. You need a song
Sweden has some of the best song writers in the world and a Swede just won Eurovision. Can someone please create a really catchy, fun-to-sing song about National Day? Nothing gets patriotism going like a moving song that touches on your emotions and swells up your pride.

4. Give away cheap flags/Swedish memorabilia
This one is easy - hand out really cheap Swedish flags or something similar at the grocery store on that day. Maybe blue and yellow carnation flowers? Balloons? Pins? I don't know - there are a gazillion things you can do to easily help people proudly display (or accidentally display) that they are Swedish.

5. Fireworks
Sweden erupts in fireworks every New Year's Eve and each neighborhood hosts it's own informal fireworks display. If each kommun organized a fireworks show then this would be another fun way - combined with the 10K race, parade and balloons and whatnot - to cap off the evening of a fun National Day.

Maybe I'm trying to impose too much Americana (basically a Swedish 4th of July) on Sweden but it just seems like a major loss to never truly celebrate being Swedish - or worse yet, to ignore it completely. Don't take your perfectly working social system with your universal health care, clean and efficient public transportation and the best parental leave benefits in the world for granted. It looks really insane to the rest of the world when Swedes have all of these things and then refuse to enjoy being Swedish.


  1. Hey there! Fellow American living in Stockholm here. Just found your blog while searching for something (now that I've spent the last 20 minutes here I can't remember just what...). So nice to read about another American woman adjusting to life in Sweden! :)

  2. We just had National Day in Switzerland and it was very reminiscent of the 4th of July. A substantial number of Swiss flags on houses and balconies, fireworks everywhere (and some leftovers last night), towns decorated, etc.

    We celebrated by going shopping in Germany...


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