Swedish Ways: Nationaldagen

6 June is the national day (Nationaldagen) of Sweden. It didn’t use to be a holiday, but a few years ago, after I moved to Britain, they decided to scrap Whitmonday as a red letter day and have the national day off instead.

When I was in primary school, we’d perhaps gather around the flagpole in the school grounds and sing the national anthem and that was pretty much it. On the other hand, roundabout now, Swedish schools finish for the summer, so most kids and teenagers will be kind of preoccupied with other things …

The reason we raise the flag and get misty-eyed over 6 June is due to King Gustav Vasa rising to power in 1523, the founder of the Sweden we know today, although apparently, we haven’t actually celebrated the day until 1916.

Gustav Vasa becoming king meant the end of Danish rule in Sweden, but that’s such a long time ago now that we don’t really think about it. (Unlike Norway, whose 17 May is a giant party – they’re celebrating that the union with Sweden was dissolved in 1815.)

This post wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t have the national anthem playing, so here goes, with lots of gorgeous photos of my home country:

The instrument played is called a nyckelharpa, by the way, which is very traditional. The national anthem is called Du gamla, Du fria (“Thou ancient, Thou free”), and here are the lyrics for those wishing to sing along:

Du gamla, Du fria, Du fjällhöga nord
Du tysta, Du glädjerika sköna!
Jag hälsar Dig, vänaste land uppå jord,
Din sol, Din himmel, Dina ängder gröna.
Din sol, Din himmel, Dina ängder gröna.

Du tronar på minnen från fornstora dar,
då ärat Ditt namn flög över jorden.
Jag vet att Du är och Du blir vad Du var.
Ja, jag vill leva, jag vill dö i Norden.
Ja, jag vill leva, jag vill dö i Norden.

The good, old days *cough*

One of the nice things about the national anthem is that it’s (of course) very, very Swedish. The whole first verse is scenery porn, no kidding. The second is about how great and glorious the nation once was, and that we still look upon that with nostalgia (see image above). In a literal translation, this is what you get (grabbed off Wikipedia):

Thou ancient, thou free, thou mountainous North
Thou quiet, thou joyful [and] fair!
I greet thee, most beautiful land upon earth,
Thy sun, Thy sky, Thy meadows green.
Thy sun, Thy sky, Thy meadows green.

Thou art enthroned upon memories of great olden days,
When honored thy name flew across the earth,
I know that thou art and wilt remain what thou wast,
Yes, I want to live I want to die in the North.
Yes, I want to live I want to die in the North.

I really wasn’t kidding!

Hope everyone has a fabulous day, regardless, but may it be extra fabulous if you’re in Sweden, or are a Swedish ex-pat or even a Swedish descendant, as there are a truckload of them in the United States. Raise your glasses and say a hearty “SKÅL!” 🙂

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