Nationaldagen in Sweden is much more low-key than the American equivalent. It mostly just seems like an excuse to have a red day when the weather’s nice.
For immigrants it means that you get invited to Blå hallen at Stadshuset for speeches and music.
The music at the American version would be a bunch of old standards: some Sousa, maybe “God Bless America” or “America the Beautiful” or something similar, and of course the national anthem. Sweden opts for a selection from a musical written by half of ABBA and a schlager hit from 1979’s Melodifestivalen (in addition, of course, to “Du gamla du fria”). This is a kind of patriotism I can get behind!
Fika (one (1) kanelbulle and one (1) tiny cup of coffee or lingonberry juice) came after the speeches and the music, up in the “Golden Hall,” so called because every single inch of wall and ceiling space is covered in gold (gold-colored anyway) Medieval-style mosaics. I couldn’t get many good pictures, but this is the best one:
As in, the best picture I got and but also as in, features one of my favorite figures from Swedish history, Drottning Kristina. She was a bug-eyed weirdo super-smart lesbian (?) with wild hair who spoke eight languages, never married and after a couple years of ruling as queen regent, converted to Catholicism and peaced out to Vatican city, abdicating the throne to her cousin. A royal fit for pride month!
Here’s some from Wikipedia that are much better:
They had organ music for the post-ceremony fika. I didn’t pay too much attention to it until we were on our way out, when something about the tune struck me as familiar. It hit me and my boyfriend at the same moment and we looked at each other. He was the first to say it:
“Isn’t this…’I Will Survive’?”
Yes, the renowned Swedish diva Gloria Gaynor!
On the way out I got an envelope with free tickets to Skansen and a gift bag from the economics and law student union that had some brochures and a basil plant. There’s no way I’ll ever be a member of the economics and law student union, but the fresh basil was lovely in the salad I made for dinner later that week.
Part of me was anxious the whole time; it’s an election year here in Sweden and everyone’s real upset about immigration, so it would have been a whole room full of sitting ducks for some kind of giant terrorist THING to make some kind of point or other, and security was essentially non-existent. But a bunch of cops and metal detectors would have ruined the atmosphere. Dålig stämning. That would be very un-Swedish. I guess it’s very un-Swedish (and very American) of me to think that way. Sigh.
Some things take a little getting used to.