In that Sweden’s National Day, 6 June, has been an official holiday only since the year 2005, one can reasonably ask: “what do we Swedes celebrate on this day?”
Some answers are found here in an article in The Local, the English language weekly online newspaper in Stockholm (heavily edited):
Unlike other countries, which have anniversaries of independence or revolutions to commemorate, Sweden has never been occupied and has never got rid of its monarchy. The day coincides with the anniversary of Gustav Vasa’s election as Sweden’s king in 1523, marking the end of the union with Denmark and the start of a new period of closer unity within Sweden. This day was celebrated from the 19th century as a national day of commemoration.
June 6th was also the day in 1809 on which Sweden adopted a new constitution, something it did again on the same date in 1974. From the 1890s, the Skansen open air museum in Stockholm started organizing patriotic celebrations on June 6th. In 1916, the day became The Swedish Flag Day.
National Day was first recognized officially by the government in 1983, but it only became a public holiday in 2005, after years of debate. The official hope was that it would be a day of unity for the Swedish people.
I attended one of the many ceremonies conducted on this beautiful, cloudless Spring day which gave us temperatures hovering at and above 30°C (86°F). The image below shows musicians playing Swedish melodies that preceded the main event: several speeches of welcome and the “Nelson Mandela Award”, as mentioned in a previous journal entry. The final event was my receipt of a bevis (certificate) commemorating my acceptance as a citizen of Sweden, along with around 300 other new citizens in the magnificent Blue Hall of Stockholm City Hall where the annual Nobel Prize dinners are held.
Since the ceremony included only the new citizens to be recognized, the speakers and other dignitaries, the ushers, the photographers, the people from the National Museum asking survey questions of selected new citizens (including me) and other unidentifiable attendees, Eva was not invited. She met me outside the Blue Room’s entrance after the 30-minute formal ceremony at around 3:30 in the afternoon. We then embarked on a journey, by foot, from City Hall, across one of the several bridges to Old Town (Gamla Stan), then across another bridge to Kungsträdgården and thence to the aforementioned Skansen Open Air Museum.
In starting out from City Hall to Old Town we had in mind to walk through the main tourist shopping area along Västerlånggatan (West Long Street) in order to pass by the ice cream shop where Eva’s daughter Liv was newly working at her summer job. She was quite busy making waffle cones, so we walked the remaining length of Västerlånggatan to a plaza where the street turns a corner and becomes Österlångsgatan (East Long Street) to attend the gallery of our friend Terry LeBlanc. She was near the end of her successful day, so we hung around a bit and chatted before we went over the bridge to Kungsträdgården where more public celebrations were being held.
The Crowd was large at Kungsträdgården, but Eva was able to spot a dear friend, George, along with his friend Eva whom we had not previously met. The four of us linked up for the remainder of the day and walked together the not inconsiderable distance to Skansen. Along the way we paused to view the outdoor art display at Berzelii Park. Here is George being entertained by this set of playful displays:
On the walk along Strandvägen from Berzelii Park to the bridge over to Djurgården where Skansen Park is located, we saw the military escorts of the royal family returning from Skansen where the King and Queen were attending an outdoor concert and other official duties for the day. You can see the empty carriage in the second picture below:
The outdoor concert and official ceremony of awards to outstanding citizens was hidden from our view because we arrived just as it all began. We could hear everything, nonetheless, and enjoyed the relative freedom of not being compressed in a crowd. George and his friend Eva had brought some snaps for celebration:
I end this narrative here with two last pictures, the first of merry Swedes waving their small Swedish flags after the playing of an old-time folk song that ended the official ceremony at Skansen, and the second showing the folk musicians helping us on our way out of the park.