Sweden National Day
Sweden is swept by the colours of their flag every year as citizens flood the streets to celebrate National Day. What happens every 6 June in Sweden and how do Swedes value their National Day?
Sweden’s National Day or Sveriges nationaldag is a national public holiday that falls every year on 6 June. Before being renamed to National Day in 1983, 6 June was celebrated as the country’s Flag Day or Svenska flaggans dag.
The date of the National Day is based on the coronation in 1523 of King Gustav I of Sweden, known as the ‘founder of modern Sweden’ and ‘father of the nation.’ 6 June also commemorates the day Sweden adopted the Instrument of Government, a fundamental law under the constitution of Sweden.
Although the importance of 6 June has long been marked in the history of Sweden, its commemoration as a National Day only began around the turn of the previous century.
The original idea for a National Day was hatched by Artur Hazelius, founder of the Skansen open-air museum in Stockholm. He held a National Day celebration in the museum as early as 6 June 1890. By the 1900s, more people started to become interested in Sweden as a nation-state. Many folklore groups and history museums were being established around this time, paving way for greater awareness and pride of Sweden as a nation.
In 1916, the idea of a National Day became more solid when 6 June was made to commemorate Swedish Flag Day. This is due to Sweden finally getting its own flag after its personal union with Norway was dissolved in 1905. By 1983, Flag Day was renamed to National Day and in 2004 the parliament voted to make it a public holiday.
Because the date of National Day has only been established in the last century, debates rage on the validity of the holiday. However, many Swedes continue to honour the date with celebrations. Some are even further lobbying to have official national food and instruments, showing how Swedes value their country’s culture and tradition.
How is it celebrated?
Celebration of the National Day is a formal affair with official and community activities that uphold pride of history and culture. Some of these activities include visiting museums, watching cultural performances like dances and music and staging children’s games.
Skansen, the home of the original National Day, is visited by the King and Queen of Sweden every year to commemorate the holiday. The royal couple rides a carriage around the museum and receives bouquets of summer flowers from children wearing traditional peasant costume.
One of the highlights of the Swedish National Day celebrations is the release of 50,000 yellow and blue balloons over Skeppsbron near the RoyalCastle. Many people flock Gamla Stan, Stockholm to watch the thousands of balloons floating in the air, symbolising Swedish pride and spirit.
Sweden’s flag is raised in homes and buildings every National Day. Those who attend community activities bring small flags and some even wear the flag in the form of body paint and clothes. In Swedish communities around the world, parades are held wearing some traditional Swedish clothing.
In Stockholm, the city centre of Sweden, some annual activities that locals and visitors can take part in during National Day include:
- Open castle. The RoyalCastle opens its doors to the public for free, giving visitors a chance to see the royal quarters and the luxurious history of the Swedish royal family. Knight dubbing for children, exhibitions, lectures and performances can also be attended during open castle.
- Skeppsbron performances. Those who attend the balloons show in Skeppsbron will also be treated to performances by popular artists and musicians of different genres. The TV channel SVT streams the performances for those who cannot make it to the venue.
- Children National Day. Knights, clowns and beautiful damsels will teleport visitors to Mäster Olofsgården into the medieval times, providing a fun entertainment for younger children.
- Mäster Olofsgården performances. Speeches, singing, dancing and fashion shows for adults will alternatively bring entertainment for parents who visit on National Day.
- Balloon release. Balloon releasing has become a sort of tradition every National Day and happens over the waters of Riddarfjärden at around 13:00.