Celebrate Swedish traditions – Easter, Midsummer, Crayfish Party & Christmas – How to be Swedish

Swedes don’t miss any opportunity to celebrate their traditions. The four most common ones are easter, midsummer, the crayfish party and in December Christmas.

Påsk, easter

When you open your house door and you find Swedish kids standing on your door mat, dressed like witches, don’t feel confused it’s already Halloween. No, it’s påsk, easter in Sweden. Those little witches are also for candy hunt though. So be prepared to have some charges of candy in stock to preserve your home from witchcraft.

Also, you won’t miss is it’s going to be påsk soon since all shop windows and public flower boxes are decorated with branches full of feather in flashy neon colors – as bright as sweat pants back in the 90’s.

Midsommar, midsummer

Celebrate Midsommar!

Midsummer always take place on a Friday between June 19 and June 25 when locals celebrate the longest day of the year.

Swedes, just as people in other countries, like to reproduce. And what’s great for reproduction? Right. Fertility. Fertility is the basic motto of the midsummer party in Sweden. Interestingly, midsummer is not in the middle of the summer but right in the beginning, in the end of June. Yeah, there this doesn’t sound logical, but hey, just have another snaps and don’t bother arguing about it.

Something Swedes love to tell you once you tell them it’s your first midsummer in Sweden, is that the majstång/midsommarstång, midsummer pole, is a phallus symbol. The moment Swedes explain to you they put up a gigantic penis, to celebrate fertility is usually the point when the party starts to get really interesting.

To sum up a typical midsummer celebration in Sweden, here is how it goes: Put on a white dress or one with a flower print, if you’re a woman, or a shirt, blue or white, if your a man. Be outside in a friends garden, or even better, sommarstuga (summer house/cottage), enjoy the sunshine, set up a white tent and a midsummer pole (that phallus thing) to dance around later. Align party benches and tables. Decorate the table with small Swedish flags or flowers. Have a smörgåsbord with lax (salmon), potatis (potatoes), sill (herring), köttbullar (meatballs) and for desert jordgubbar (strawberries). Drink snaps, sing snapsvisor (drinking songs). Play outdoor games like kubb. Dance like little frogs around the midsummer pole, singing kuwakaka kuwakaka kuwakakakakaaa. (Swedes pretend to do it mainly to entertain their children. But they love it and do it even when there’s no child even close to the midsummer pole.) Wear a midsommarkrans (midsummer wreath) on your head, enjoy the sunset, dance, flirt, kiss. At last, midsummer is the celebration of fertility, so celebrate it in its most appropriate way.

Midsommar is considered another great opportunity to get drunk or pregnant

Most Swedish babies are born on the 21 of March, nine month after midsummer.

Special midsummer advice

  • Get prepared with your cider, beer and other alcoholic beverages, at the latest a day before midsummer. Because that’s when the queue is the longest in Systembolaget and since you’re about to become Swedish, standing with 10 other Swedes in a queue holding a grey plastic basket with at black handle shouldn’t bother you at all.
  • Make sure not to wear too fine shoes. Not only because you spend most of the day walking on grass, but also because the person sitting opposite site of you might reach out for some under-table-action with your feed.
  • If you’re a woman, and single, collect seven different flowers to put under your pillow before you go to bed. It is said that during your dream your future husband will appear. Alternatively you might also feel the desire to meet a specialist for pollen-allergies.

You know you’ve missed midsummer when about half of your Facebook-friends have changed their profile picture to one showing them wearing a midsummer wreath

Kräftskiva, crayfish party

A long time ago, Swedes who loved to party, found the calm half year between midsummer and Christmas for too long, so they came up with the idea of squeezing in another party in the end of the Summer or early Autumn. The crayfish party, to celebrate the end of the traditional annual ban on fishing for crustaceans between 1st of November and the first Wednesday in August. Since 1994 there is no ban anymore. No reason for Swedes to stop this beloved sticky-finger tradition.

It’s when Swedes gather, again in white tents, eating kräftor (crayfish), drink snaps and put on funny hats in the shapes of cones with colorful print. This time, the smörgåsbord also consists of bowls of crayfish, often unpeeled.

During a kräftskiva it appears very convenient not to be vegan or vegetarian. Your going to have to do plenty of manual work to get to your food, the kräftor, which have to be peeled of and then remove the bajsrand, which basically is the intestine of the crayfish, before you chew and enjoy it. Friendly Swedes will tell you to remove it. When I joined my first Kräftskiva, those around me unfortunately were not that nice.

The first time I was at a kräftskiva, my neighbor was not as nice.

Then, suck the salty juice and soul out of the kräfta, before eating it. Don’t forget to use plenty of napkins, to remove the smelly sauce from your hands and shirt. After a three or four crayfish you will probably consider eating more potatoes more appealing, because you either got fed up with the taste or the extensive peeling process for a tiny little snack. Enough tradition.

To get rid of the taste, if you happen to not like it, drink more snaps. Swedes do the same, even if they like the taste of kräftor. The day after a kräftskiva, Swedes tend feel a bit bad in the stomach, but instead of blaming the countless snaps-shots, they say “jag tål inte kräftor”, “I ‘react’ to crayfish”.

Extra tip (for any Swedish party): Know a snapsvisa by heart

One of the most popular drinking songs in Sweden is “Helan går”

And here are the lyrics to learn by heart (or just bookmark this site on your phone)

Helan går
Sjung hopp faderallan lallan lej
Helan går
Sjung hopp faderallan lej
Och den som inte helan tar
Han heller inte halvan får
Helan går
Sjung hopp faderallan lej


The whole one goes down
Sing “hup fol-de-rol la la la la”
The whole one goes down
Sing “hup fol-de-rol la la”
And he who doesn’t take the whole
Doesn’t get the half one either
The whole one goes down
Sing “hup fol-de-rol la la”


Christmas in Sweden

Christmas in Sweden is just like Christmas in your old country. Except, there are a few things that might be a little different …

In Sweden:

  • On the 10th of December you can watch Swedes lining up in front of churches to watch girls wearing white robes, singing, while holding candles in their hands. One girl is wearing the crown with candles on her head. She plays Santa Lucia, the Italian saint of light. Many young girls wish to be Santa Lucia one day, until they find out it can take some time to remove the dripping wax from the hair and scalp.
  • You drink a mulled wine with fragrant spices called Glögg, to which you first add almond slices and raisins, which you later fish for with a little spoon and lots of patience.
  • You celebrate Christmas on Christmas eve, the 24th of December.
  • You eat Swedish Christmas food: for once you don’t just have another smörgåsbord, no, that would be a little boring after having had one for påsk, midsommar and the kräftskiva already. Now you have a julbord (christmas table) instead. And, as you can imagine, it’s contains exactly the same ingredients as a normal smörgåsbord, except you put some Glögg and candles on the table as well.
  • After the first round of heavy eating you gather with the other family members in front of the TV to watch Kalle Anka (Swedish for Donald Duck). Yes, all grown ups watch Kalle Anka, too, not just the children. And they watch it every year. Don’t expect a TV broadcast of new episodes every year. No, they show the same collection of clips from the previous years. After a couple of years in Sweden you will know every line or sound Mickey Mouse and Långben (Goofy) say to each other on their hilarious camper-journey through the mountains. Whether you like it or not.
  • While watching TV you’ll probably also have a plate covered with cookies standing in front of you on the living room table. Those cookies are very likely in the shape of a blossom or heart, called pepparkakor, ginger bread. Pepparkakor have been popular in Sweden since the 14th century. Wow.
    As a new-Swedes you should get excited over a pepparkaka that breaks into exactly three pieces when you push it with one finger into your other hand’s palm. It’s said this brings you luck.
  • If you didn’t find yourself lucky with the pepparkakor, wait for another Swedish Christmas tradition: Swedes put an almond into the risgrynsgröt (rice pudding). According to tradition, the one who gets it served is said to either marry next year or simply have luck. One option doesn’t always necessarily exclude the other.


So, dear soon to be Swede, you’re ready to join any Swedish traditional celebration!


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