National Day 2018 and 2019
National Day, formerly called “Swedish Flag Day”, is a public, patriotic holiday in Sweden that is celebrated annually on June 6th.
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Swedes are known for being reserved about their patriotism, and in fact, many of them let June 6th pass without notice, but for those how observe it, it is a day to put their flag on full display and let their love of Sweden be known to all.
The date June 6th was chosen because it is the day in 1523 when Sweden became independent of the Union of Kalmar, which had formerly united Denmark, Norway, and Sweden as one country. As Denmark held most of the power, it was a genuine new start for Sweden as a nation-state, and it was the occasion of their electing Gustav Vasa as their king and adopting their own flag. The second reason for choosing June 6th is that, in 1809, Sweden adopted a new constitution on that date.
The tradition of celebrating June 6th as Flag Day began in the 1890s, when Artur Hazelius held such celebrations at his Stockholm-based open-air museum named “Skansen.” In 1916, the tradition gained yet more steam when it was honoured at the Stockholm Olympics. In 1983, the name was changed to “National Day” by the Swedish parliament, and in 2004, it was finally voted an official off-work, public holiday. However, Whit Monday was removed at the same time, which caused some people dismay because June 6th sometimes falls on a weekend, denying them an extra day off work that year. Whit Monday, of course, always comes on a Monday.
Some Swedes celebrate by dancing in the streets, while others simply enjoy the day off work and relax at home. The main celebration, however, is still at Skansen. The king and queen arrive for the ceremonial raising of the Swedish flag, a yellow cross against a blue field, to the top of the flag pole. Kids dressed up in old-time peasant garb then bring the king and queen bouquets of beautiful, Swedish flowers.
Three things to do on National Day, should you then be in Sweden, are as follows:
- Attend the celebrations at Skansen. You will see the royal family arrive in a grand procession with horse-drawn carriages. There will be a music concert in the evening and plenty to do all day. You can make your own Swedish flag or, if you wish, paint one on your face during the face painting activity. There will also be speeches, storytelling sessions, and folk dances.
- Run in the Stockholm Marathon. Come rain or shine, the Swedes never cancel it, for they love to run in any weather. The route consists of two trips around the old Medieval city centre, which takes you through much scenic terrain and across 14 islands. There will be awards and record keeping, but everyone can look for their picture on the Marathon Foto website. The race ends at the famous Stockholm Olympic Stadium.
- Look for “Hejfestivalen” events, which translates roughly from Swedish as “Hello Festival.” It entails ceremonies to welcome new Swedish citizens, but all are welcome to attend. Events take place on Sodermalm Island in Stockholm. There will be language use sessions, live performances, Swedish food to taste-test, foreign foods to taste along with them, and likely, a speech by the Employment and Integration Minister.
There are mostly just a few key events in Sweden on National Day, not necessarily the widespread celebrations common in other countries, but you will find these events well worthwhile to attend. You will also notice the Swedish flag prominently put on display by Swedish citizens far more than usual.