Holidays and traditions

Sweden has a long history of both pagan and Christian traditions. It also has a strong agrarian history -remaining a largely agrarian society until well into the 20th century. Remnants of these influences on Swedish culture and traditions are reflected in various holidays celebrated throughout the year.

New Year's Eve (nyårsafton) is typically celebrated with friends in the cold few hours that transition from the past year into the new. Many Swedes start the New Year with a bang, literally, by braving the cold and snow outside to light up the sky with fireworks.

Easter (påsk) is a family holiday that is celebrated together at home, or with a short holiday. It has lost most of its religious significance for many, but some traditions from the past remain, such as the large Easter lunch and children dressed as 'Easter witches' visiting neighbours to collect sweets.

Walpurgis Eve (valborg) is celebrated on the evening of 30 April with large community bonfires and singing. This celebration of the coming of spring is often a big party event for students.

Midsummer (midsommar) comes in late June each year and features dancing around the May Pole, national costumes, and an impressive smörgåsbord of special summertime foods, such as herring, new potatoes, strawberries and snaps. It is often celebrated in the countryside and is the start of the major summer holiday for many Swedes.

Crayfish season (kräftsäsongen) begins on the second Wednesday of August and is celebrated with outdoor parties featuring crayfish and snaps in the company of friends, colourful lanterns, and eccentric hats.

Lucia (Lucia) is the feast day of the Italian saint Lucia, which is celebrated on 13 December in Sweden. The famous image of a young girl clad in a white robe with a wreath of candles on her head is still a very popular tradition in Sweden. Children and adult choirs alike, of both men and women, sing familiar seasonal songs by candlelight while onlookers enjoy their morning coffee, saffron buns and ginger snaps.

Christmas (jul) begins with the celebration of Advent (advent), which marks the start of the holiday season with home and office decorations and advent candles that are successively lit each week. Advent and Christmas are important holidays in Sweden. The height of the Christmas celebration occurs on 24 December, including a large family meal after which children wait anxiously by the Christmas tree for Santa Claus to knock on the door and personally hand them a special present.

Public holidays (most offices are closed)

1 January - New Year's Day
6 January - Epiphany
March or April - Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday
1 May - May Day
May - Ascension Day
May - Whit Sunday
6 June - National Day
June - Midsummer Day
October or November - All Saints Day
25 December - Christmas Day
26 December - Boxing Day