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All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Day is a day of dignity and reflection. The custom of lighting candles on family graves is still widely practised, and anyone passing a cemetery in Sweden this weekend is met by some beautiful scenes.

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Photo: Cecilia Larsson/imagebank.sweden.se

Candlelit cemeteries

The countless points of light from the candles and lanterns placed on graves form beautiful patterns in the snow and lend a special feel to the landscape. People also lay flowers and wreaths on graves on All Saints’ Day. A jar of flowering heather stands up well to the cold.

First day of winter

In southern Sweden, outdoor work is nearing completion, while in the north, All Saints’ Day marks the first day of winter and the traditional start of the alpine ski season.

Until recently, shops and stores were closed to mark the occasion. Although this is no longer the case everywhere, most Swedes take the day off, and those who don’t visit cemeteries usually stay at home with the family and cook an ambitious meal of some kind. Many churches organise concerts to celebrate All Saints’ Day.

Last updated: 25 March 2014

Po Tidholm & Agneta Lilja

Po Tidholm is a freelance journalist and a critic based in the province of Hälsingland. He regularly contributes to Swedish dailies Dagens Nyheter and Aftonbladet, the magazine Filter and Swedish Radio. His texts about society, culture and history often revolve around the Swedish countryside and the north of Sweden. Tidholm has written the main sections about how we celebrate in Sweden today. | Agneta Lilja is a lecturer in ethnology at Södertörn University College, Stockholm. Her doctoral thesis, The Notion of the Ideal Record, was a critical examination of collection strategies at an archive specialising in the documentation of customs and traditions. Her research has also included the study of songs and festive customs, and she has written a book about All Saints’ Day and Halloween. At present, she is engaged in gender research. She also writes reviews and appears on radio and tv. Agneta Lilja wrote the sections about the history of Swedish traditions and festivities.