Swedish festivals are for the most part organized around the seasons. Most celebrations are lively events, as Swedes are great party people – once the beer begins to flow. The highlight of the year is the Midsummer festival, when the whole country gets involved, and wild parties last well into the early hours. The date of Midsummer’s Day varies from year to year but is the Saturday closest to the actual summer solstice.
Major festivals and events
Valborgsmässoafton (April 30). Walpurgis Night. One of the most important festivals in Sweden, heralding the beginning of spring with bonfires and songs.
Labour Day (May 1). A none-too-thrilling marching day for the workers’ parties.
Swedish National Day (June 6). In existence since 1983, though a bit of a damp squib even though it’s now a public holiday; worthy speeches are delivered in the evening and the king often puts in an appearance at Skansen in Stockholm.
Midsummer (the Fri & Sat between June 20–26). The biggest and best celebration anywhere in Sweden, with festivities centred around the maypole, an old fertility symbol, which is erected at popular gatherings across the country. The maypole is raised in June because it’s often still snowing in northern Sweden in May. There’s much dancing and drinking into the night – and severe hangovers the next morning.
Crayfish parties (throughout Aug). Held in the August moonlight across the country to say a wistful farewell to the short Swedish summer. Competitions are often held to establish the season’s best and tastiest crayfish.
Surströmming (late Aug). In coastal areas of northern Sweden, particularly along the High Coast, parties are held at which people eat surströmming, a foul-smelling fermented Baltic herring which is something of an acquired taste – though a quintessentially Swedish experience.
Nobel Prize Day (Dec 10). Official ceremonies are held in Stockholm as the winners of the annual Nobel prizes are awarded. Although this is not a public festival, it is a key date in the Swedish calendar.
St Lucia’s Day (Dec 13). Led by a girl with a crown of candles, this is a procession of children who sing songs as they bring light into the darkest month. For many Swedes, this is a welcome highlight during the ever-shortening days of December and a chance to look forward to Christmas and the longer nights of January and onwards.
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