Today is Sweden’s National Day. Although the day may seem historical, the Swedish National Day has actually not been around for that long.
The 6th of June was originally known as the Swedish Flag Day, until 1983 when it was renamed as the National Day of Sweden. The day itself did not become a national holiday until 2005 when the Swedish government removed one of the Easter-related holidays and made the National Day celebrations a holiday instead.
In Sweden, there is far more tradition and zeal associated with May 1st, The International Workers Day. This is as a result of Swedish socialism, a far more prominent characteristic of Swedish culture.
Roughly one week after National Day, Swedes celebrate Midsummer, which is a far larger celebration. In many ways, Midsummer is a much more traditional and quintessential Swedish celebration that the National Day. It may be that the National Day is somewhat overshadowed by Midsummer and May 1st, giving rise to the apathy that so many Swedes seem to show.
The rest of Scandinavia
Sweden differs from Denmark, who have their National Day one day before Sweden, on 5th June. In Denmark, the day is just like any other, and people go about their lives as usual. A study from 2012 reported that 77% of Danes do not celebrate the Danish National Day at all, compared to 57% of Swedes.
In Norway, however, the National Day is a very big deal. Just 11% of Norwegians said that they do not celebrate. Every 17th May, people dress up in traditional clothing, and there are huge parades through the streets. Big parties are thrown and typically a lot of alcohol is consumed. The national pride is unashamed, with the overall mood being one of great celebration and partying together.
Generally, there is an air of embarrassment about Nationalism in Sweden. This is due in part to the rise in far-right Nationalist groups and political parties such as the Swedish Democrats.
Sweden has not experienced a military conflict for over 200 years. War can have the effect of bringing a country together and promoting nationalism among everyday people. During the Second World War, Sweden remained neutral, letting the German trains travel straight through the country in order to stay out of the conflict. At the same time, Norway was occupied by Germany.
Today, more than ever, globalisation has made the average Swede see themselves not just as Swedish but also as a part of the world as a whole. Nationalism seems to be reserved for sporting events.
Being a small country means having a small market. As businesses and the tech industry have grown, Sweden has had to think internationally in order to prevail, which might be a key factor in the dwindling patriotism.
Additionally, Swedish culture is permeated by something called The Law of Jante, a social construct which looks negatively upon success and achievement as being both improper and unbecoming. This may have something to do with the embarrassment many Swedes seem to feel when it comes to celebrating their own country.
More people are celebrating
Despite the overall indifference for Swedish National Day, research shows that more people are celebrating each year. Interestingly, the 2017 report from SOM-Institute at Gothenburg University states, “It may seem surprising that the tendency to celebrate National Day has increased most among people who have not grown up in Sweden.”
This increase in celebrators most likely has to do with the fact that every municipality in Sweden makes an effort to welcome all immigrants who have become Swedish Citizens in the past year. Every year, they host a ceremony in honour of the new citizens, an event that most often happens on National Day.
With the trend to celebrate the future of Sweden, and not just observe the moments of its past, Sweden’s National Day could easily become a more notable day on the calendar. Some might say that this is the essence of Sweden. Taking an existing tradition, one which has become stale and irrelevant to most, and transforming it into a new custom. They are shifting the focus from a day of internal nationalism to an inclusive day of welcome.
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