Sweden’s many unique traditions are intimately connected to the seasons and the light. In the winter, when sunlight is scarce, Lucia and her maidens of light conquer the winter darkness with candles and carols. Swedish Midsummer is celebrated in the summer, when sunlight never really fades. Read more about all of the Swedish holidays and traditions here.
||Sweden’s National Day
|The 4 Sundays before Christmas
||New Year’s Eve
NOTE: Many establishments are closed or have special opening hours during the national holidays mentioned above. Please check with the Stockholm Tourist Center for special opening hours.
Skansen, the open-air museum, offers tourists the opportunity to participate in many traditional celebrations.
Easter – witches and eggs
Easter is a sign that spring is coming, although it is associated with the Christian faith. It is also time to take a break and spend time with family and friends. Swedish children dress up as little witches and knock on doors to wish people a happy Easter, recalling the old superstition that witches flew on broomsticks to Blåkulla Mountain. Easter Eve is the holiday’s major feast day, and tables are set with Easter decorations made of birch twigs and feathers, decorative yellow chicks and, of course, dyed eggs. An Easter egg wrapped in colorful paper and filled with candy is a traditional Easter gift.
Walpurgis Night is the night between April 30 and May 1. People gather around a large bonfire to sing the winter away and welcome spring. High school graduates earn a white “student cap”, which is then worn for the festivities of Walpurgis Night over the coming years.
National Day – June 6
In keeping with tradition, Sweden’s National Day is celebrated at Skansen, the open-air museum, in the presence of their Royal Highnesses King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia.
Midsummer – the longest day of the year
The most characteristically Swedish tradition of all may be Midsummer, which is celebrated on the weekend closest to June 24, the longest day of the year—when the sky never darkens. Most Stockholmers leave for the archipelago or the countryside during the weekend, but those who stay behind have options, too. Skansen, the world’s oldest open-air museum, holds a grand Midsummer celebration, with games and dancing to Swedish folk music around the maypole, which is decorated with flowers and leaves. Many participants wear traditional folk costumes and flower wreaths in their hair. Midsummer is celebrated outdoors in a similar fashion throughout Sweden. A traditional Midsummer meal includes herring, fresh potatoes, beer and snaps.
NOTE: A midsummer night’s dream: one old surviving folk tradition is for unmarried girls to pick seven types of flowers on Midsummer night and place them under their pillows when they go to sleep, leading to dreams of the husband fate has in store.
August is the best month for crayfish, and this is celebrated with a crayfish party. Party hats are donned, paper lanterns are hung up and crayfish are eaten with bread and cheese.
December – a month of preparation
The four Sundays prior to Christmas mark Advent, during which Christmas markets can be found around the city, offering Swedish Christmas candy and food, glögg (mulled wine) and a range of handicrafts and decorative arts. Skansen, the open-air museum on Djurgården, holds a big, traditional market. Stockholm’s oldest neighborhood, Gamla Stan (the Old Town), is full of shops and restaurants with cheerful, festive atmospheres, and hosts a famous Christmas market at Stortorget square. Markets are also held in the archipelago and in royal settings. The whole city glitters with Christmas lights.
Lucia – Queen of light
Lucia is celebrated on December 13. The tradition comes from the need to light up one of the darkest days of the year. Lucia and her maidens come before dawn, shedding light on the darkness, and Lucia wears white and a crown of candles on her head. She and her maidens sing traditional Lucia songs and serve a breakfast of glögg (sweet, mulled red wine), saffron-flavored buns and gingerbread cookies. Visitors can take part in the Lucia tradition, and the main celebration is the coronation of Sweden’s Lucia at Skansen. Lucia concerts are held in churches throughout Stockholm.
Unlike most Christian countries, the high point of the holiday in Sweden is Christmas Eve, December 24. The Swedish Christmas table features a smorgasbord (buffet).
Christmas Day is peaceful. Many Swedes go to Julottan, an early-morning church service; the one in Seglora Church in Skansen is especially popular. Boxing Day used to be the year’s biggest day for movie premieres, and movie theaters are usually still full. Visitors can enjoy a Swedish Christmas through lunch cruises, Christmas buffets at restaurants and hotels, picturesque markets, concerts and post-Christmas sales.
NOTE: Almost all restaurants serve a Christmas smorgasbord. Several archipelago steamboats also serve a Christmas buffet.