On a visit to Göteborg I sat in a park with a Swedish friend of mine, Göran, when suddenly, past us marched a small troop of Scouts, fully dressed in their scout uniforms, carrying a wreath. We looked at them as they solemnly placed the wreath on a monument. "What's all that about?" I asked Göran.
He was silent for a long time, which is unusual for Göran. Suddenly there was a glint of understanding in his eyes. "Now I know it! Today must be Svenska flaggans dag!"
I understood the words - Day of the Swedish flag - but they meant nothing to me. "What day?" I asked.
"It's our national day," he explained. I looked over at the small group of people by the monument, then back at Göran. "This is your national day?"
The National day of Sweden
Compared to the American 4th of July, French 14th of the same month, and Norwegian 17th of May, the 6th of June in Sweden is an obscure little thing. To most Swedes, it's a normal working day, and they do not celebrate it. The Swedes have been free for so long, they don't feel the need to rejoice in the fact. They don't have any recent battles decisive for national freedom to remember.
The 6th of June commemorates the day when Gustav Vasa was elected king in 1523. Celebrations only began in 1916 (11 years after Norway's independence from Sweden - interesting...), and up until 1982, the day was known as The Day of the Swedish Flag. That year, the government decide it to make it an official national day. A lot of Swedes, however, don't know about this, or just don't care.
The Swedish government would like to change this, and this year, the parliament has declared the 6th of June to be a bank holiday from now on. To do this, the Swedes will have to sacrifice another holiday - but which one? Certainly not the long weekend around the summer solstice, which is the national holiday in their hearts. This is when festivities take place, when people dress up, play games, sing, and dance around the maypole. Luckily there are other days of less importance to choose from.