The National Day of Sweden

2011-06-05. Published in Language & Culture
by Nils Pasi

The flag of SwedenOn the 6th of June every year, Sweden celebrates its national day. Nowadays, it is a national holiday and many Swedes are free to celebrate, but it has not always been that way. Before 2005, the national day was an ordinary working day in Sweden, and prior to 1983, we didn't even have a nation day! Much has obviously happened in a very short period of time. I'll do my best to present a short history, as well as recommend some activities in Gothenburg that takes place tomorrow on the national day.


6 June – the official Swedish flag day and later national day
In 1893, there was a spring party at Skansen in Stockholm that ended with a big flag party on 6 June. Apparently, this day had been chosen for two reasons by Artur Hazelius, the founder of Skansen. The first reason was Gustav Vasa's coronation on 6 June 1523. Sweden, at that time, was part of the Kalmar Union, consisting of Sweden, Denmark and Norway. When Gustav Vasa was made king, he had Sweden break free from the union, and a hereditary monarchy was established. These events are today considered by many as the founding of the modern Swedish state. The second reason was that legislation was signed on 6 June 1809 establishing certain civil rights, including freedom of speech. It would be a couple of years, though, unti 6 June became the official Swedish day of the flag in 1916.

6 June was made the official Swedish national day as late as 1983, and didn't become a national holiday until 2005.

The Swedish flag
The shape of the flag is believed by some to have been influenced by the Danish flag, which is pretty much identical to the Swedish flag, apart for the colours: whereas the Swedish flag is blue with a yellow cross, the Danish flag is red with a white cross. The choice of colours can be traced back to the national coat of arms: the three golden crowns against a blue background. Although the flag has its roots in mid 16th century towards the end of Gustav Vasa's reign, the current appearance was not established until the new flag law of 1906.
Did you know:
A Swedish flag hoisted halfway indicates that someone has died. It is called 'flaggan är på halv stång' in Swedish.

The National Anthem

The Swedish national anthem consists of four verses, although only the first two are typically sung. The last two verses were added in 1910 by Louise Ahlén, whereas the first two were written by Richard Dybeck in 1844. The music is an old folk melody. Below you will find the lyrics, as well as a recording of the national anthem.

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. : |

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. : |

Jag städs vill dig tjäna mitt älskade land,
din trohet till döden vill jag svära.
Din rätt, skall jag värna, med håg och med hand,
| : din fana, högt den bragderika bära. : |

Med Gud skall jag kämpa, för hem och för härd,
för Sverige, den kära fosterjorden.
Jag byter Dig ej, mot allt i en värld
| : Nej, jag vill leva jag vill dö i Norden. : |


  • Sweden's national orchestra, GSO (Gothenburg Symphonic Orchestra), under the direction of Joachim Gustafsson give their annual free open air concert in Slottsskogen at 2:00PM on the field between the two lakes. This event is not to be missed: Swedish tenor Tomas Lind will perform!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Seriously, this is not to be missed!!!! For a complete program, see here.

  • The picnic festival at Apslätten, Härlanda, from 12:00–10:00PM. Celebrate the national day with a picnic at Apslätten. This year, guest artists include Bonne Idée, Ram di Dam, Mohammer Ali, and P5 Records. Tram services 3 and 5 to Torp will take you as close to Apslätten as possible. There are signs leading to the festival area from Torp tram stop.

/Nils, team 2011

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