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The National Day of Sweden

Swedes celebrate their National Day on 6 June in honour of two historical events. On 6 June 1523, Gustav Vasa was elected king, and on the same date in 1809, the country adopted a new constitution. Not known for displaying their national pride, this day offers a rare chance to see Swedes waving their flag about.

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Photo: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se

Celebration with the Royal Family

Every year, the King and Queen of Sweden take part in a ceremony at Skansen, Stockholm’s open-air museum, where the yellow and blue Swedish flag is run up the mast, and children in traditional peasant costume present the royal couple with bouquets of summer flowers.

These days, special ceremonies welcoming new Swedish citizens are held around the country on National Day.

The last time people in general took an active interest in Sweden as a nation-state was at the turn of the century, around 1900, when national-romantic winds were blowing through the country and folklore societies and local history museums were established. It was then that 6 June first became a day of celebration.

Sweden’s National Day – the origins

Since 1983, Sweden has celebrated its National Day on 6 June. This is the date on which Gustav Vasa was crowned king in 1523, which laid the foundation of Sweden as an independent state, and on which a new, important constitution was adopted in 1809.

The original idea came from Artur Hazelius, who founded the Skansen open-air museum in Stockholm and held a national day celebration there on 6 June as early as the 1890s. 

At the 1893 World Fair in Chicago, Sweden presented Midsummer Day as a form of Swedish national day, so in the 1890s Sweden celebrated the occasion twice a year.
In 1916, 6 June became the Swedish Flag Day, celebrating the fact that Sweden had acquired its own flag following the dissolution of the union with Norway in 1905.

Photo: Marie Andersson/Skansen CC BY

Public holiday for the first time in 2005

In 2004, the Swedish parliament voted to make it a public holiday, which may cause people to become more interested in celebrating it. The final decision took decades to reach − various proposals had been discussed under a succession of governments.

There are also groups lobbying for the introduction of an official national pastry, and a national dish, and for the key-fiddle (nyckelharpa) to be made the national instrument. But even for ideas as innocent as these, arriving at a consensus has proved difficult.

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.