We Swedes love our holidays, it’s as simple as that. Whether that means paying homage to pastries filled with cream or cinnamon, pickled herring or crawling aquatic animals, we gladly invite them to celebrate. Western Sweden is truly no exception. Celebrate all the festivals of the year with us!
Creamy fat day
Our beloved Semlor are synonymous with our Fat Day (Fettisdagen), which is celebrated every year 47 days before Easter. These cream puffs, dusted with powdered sugar and filled with cream and almond paste, are perhaps the most beloved pastry of the Swedes. In short: We are crazy about it. These days, they come in many different sizes – from small bite-sized morsels to pie size. There are just as many opinions on how best to enjoy this delicacy. Some prefer the classic variant of the "hot wall", where the semla is served in a deep plate filled with warm milk. Others eat them as they are for coffee.
Photographer: Susanne Walstrom, Visit Sweden
Eating this great baked good sometimes proves a bit difficult for "beginners", so here are a few tips: Usually start with the top and use it as a spoon to lick out bits of the creamy filling. When the bottom part of the semla reaches the right size, you eat it like a sandwich.
If we’re being completely honest, we’ve been feasting on this treat since after Christmas and New Year’s Eve and up until Easter, but actually Fat Day is the holiday of Semla. The date is between the 3. February and the 9. March. But don’t worry: if you pass by a pastry shop or one of our cafes on Fat Day, you definitely won’t miss it.
Colorful feathered Easter
Spring is in the air and finally we look forward to the end of the long winter. This is of course celebrated! For the uninitiated, Swedish Easter traditions require a little explanation. In short, it’s all largely about eggs, colorful feathers, witches, sweets and more eggs.
Photographer: Lena Granefelt, visitsweden.com
As with so many other Swedish holidays, food plays a prominent role at Easter. The traditional Easter buffet is a light version of the Christmas buffet, but this time the focus is on fish and eggs. We Swedes stuff about 64 million eggs into us at Easter – from boiled eggs to painted eggs to variously filled half eggs to luscious omelets. It goes without saying that pickled and smoked salmon, small sausages and herring pickled in many different ways are also part of the buffet.
The egg is also present in sweets, which also play an important role at Easter. We fill large cardboard or plastic eggs with chocolate eggs and candy made of foam rubber or jelly, and the kids go out dressed as Easter witches to hunt for sweets in the neighborhood. We decorate our houses and gardens with chickens as well as branches hung with colorful feathers and eggs. To top it all off, you can also see Easter bonfires lighting up in many places in western Sweden.
Crispy waffle day
Another baked good that we pay homage to on a special day is the crispy waffle. On 25. March is the "normal" fika pastry, z. B. Cookies and Danish pastries, swapped for this freshly baked treat. Favorite recipes vary, as does the way we enjoy the waffles. Some eat them with delicious jam and cream, while others prefer fresh berries and as much ice cream as they like. But whichever you choose, you’ll love them as much as we do!
Photographer: Linus Strandholm
Fiery Walpurgis Night
Big pompous fires, fireworks and choral singing – this is Walpurgis Night, which takes place every year on 30. April is celebrated. In the past, fires were lit to drive away witches and other evil spirits. Today, it’s probably more of a convenient way to get rid of garden waste. At the same time, the fires are also considered the final end of winter and the start of the light season. In a rush of happiness, we gather around large piles of brushwood in a park, just as our forefathers did, warming ourselves by jumping and singing traditional songs to celebrate the arrival of spring. Walpurgis Night is also the highest festival at colleges and universities. So don’t be surprised if you meet cheerful academics in typical white student caps here and there.
Photographer: Anna Danielsbacka
As our King Carl XVI. Gustaf happens to celebrate his birthday on Walpurgis Day, Walpurgis Night is fittingly a huge birthday party at the same time. So you better expect that a lot of Swedish flags will be waved.
Flowery midsummer feast
Next to Christmas, Midsummer is the holiest of our Swedish festivals. In connection with the summer sun stand it falls between the 19. and 25. June, when the days are longest and the beautiful summer nights are shortest. The way we celebrate the Midsummer Festival may cause some visitors to raise their eyebrows.
Photographer: Jeska Hearne, Lobster& Swan
A central role in the festivities falls to the midsummer pole, also called the May pole. It is formed by a large wooden cross from which two wreaths hang, decorated with birch twigs and all kinds of flowers. We also tie saucy flower wreaths as headdresses. The midsummer pole, however, is not just a nice ornament for the garden or park, but the focal point for the song and dance celebration that is midsummer. To the beat of traditional songs and dance games we hop young and old around the pole – gladly musically accompanied by a minstrel troupe. Classics that you might want to practice before the festival are the songs "Små grodorna", "Prastens lilla kråka" and "Vi aro musikanter".
And of course there is no Swedish feast without a certain food tradition. Midsummer is the festival of herring, young potatoes and strawberries – and this is taken seriously. Every self-respecting midsummer table must have at least one jar of pickled herring – preferably maties – as well as sour cream, chives and plenty of young potatoes. For dessert, we enjoy what may be the first Swedish strawberries of the year. Whether with or without cream everyone may decide for themselves.
Photographer: Jonas Ingman – M2B AB
In true Old Norse spirit, the midsummer night is also attributed a whole lot of magic. According to ancient folklore, single young people are supposed to pick seven different kinds of flowers at night and place them under their pillows for sleep. Then in a dream their future life partner appears to them. Try it out!
Fun crab feast
In some cultures the crayfish – or more precisely the Norway lobster – is considered an unfriendly aquatic insect – in Sweden it is a delicacy that deserves its own feast in late summer or at the beginning of autumn. If you don’t manage to catch crayfish yourself, you’ll find an abundant supply of both Swedish and imported crayfish in supermarkets and grocery stores at this time of year. The shellfish are then cooked in a broth of salted water, plenty of dill and possibly other flavorings. Ready is the feast!
Photographer: Jonas Ingman – M2B AB
For a classic Swedish crayfish feast, both the house and guests are decorated in honor of the crustacean – with lanterns, garlands, napkins, hats and sloppy bibs in the sign of the crayfish. Other classic components on the table include Vasterbotten quiche, crispbread and a well-seasoned cheese. Schnapps also plays a central role for many – gladly in connection with funny drinking songs.
Luxurious lobster premiere
Shellfish taste best when the water gets colder and is more suitable for fishing than swimming. During the summer season, the king of shellfish, the lobster, is protected, but starting the first Monday after the 20. September it is called: Ran to the traps! The fact that this day is eagerly awaited can be seen not least in the fact that the fishing villages of Bohuslan virtually explode on this date with eagerly awaited amateur fishermen who are on the hunt for the "black gold of the sea".
Photographer: Roger Borgelid
If you don’t have your own boat and equipment, you can book a lobster safari with a professional fisherman, which are offered along the coastline. We promise you an insanely exciting experience that you will remember for a long time to come.
Delightfully fragrant day of the cinnamon bun
The 4. October is a day all cinnamon and baked goods lovers should mark on their calendars. Because we like our cinnamon buns so much, we’ve dedicated a day of their own to them. These fluffy Danish pastries filled with cinnamon, butter and sugar and sprinkled with pearl sugar are a treat for all the senses. Bake a batch yourself or purchase cinnamon buns at local bakeries and pastry shops and eat them with a cup of coffee, glass of milk or juice.
Photographer: Jesper Anhede
Bright Lucia celebration
The 13. December is a magical day in many ways. In the middle of the darkest December, eleven nights before Christmas, the Lucia festival is like a saving angel. This more than 400-year-old tradition pays homage to the "Queen of Light," Saint Santa Lucia, who according to legend spread light and joy. The 13. December is also deeply rooted in our folklore: it was believed to be a dangerous night, when supernatural forces were at play and animals could talk.
Photographer: Cecilia Llarsson-Lantz, visitsweden.com
The way we Swedes celebrate Lucia today is said to have actually originated in western Sweden and Varmland. If you are here at this time, be prepared for parades where young girls and boys dressed in white pass by singing and holding candles in their hands or on their heads. The Luciafest should be enjoyed with lots of saffron-scented lussebullar, gingerbread cookies and the Swedish mulled wine variant Glogg.
Christmas is so much more than Secret Santa, presents, tree, glitter and candles. It is in the highest degree also a celebration of food. We Swedes love Christmas and start celebrating a bit when the first Christmas markets open on old farms and in various city centers at the end of November. This is when we stock up our pantry before the Christmas holidays, buy craft products and a wide variety of decorative items.
Of course, the Christmas meal must be tasted in advance – in the form of at least one Julbord, the Christmas buffet, in a local restaurant. A classic Swedish Julbord is a veritable feast table with delicacies such as various pickled herring, the casserole Janssons Frestelse, meatballs, sausages, beet salad, red cabbage, pâte, pickled salmon and, of course, baked ham. Daredevils also sample specialties such as stockfish, pig’s feet, aspic and homemade brandy. On Christmas Eve proper, the holiday feasting continues at home – combined with Christmas classics like grits, lots of nuts, dried fruit, homemade sweets, and the lemonade drink must-have. If you haven’t already done so, you should try our Christmas sweets in the form of Knack confectionery, cream sweets, ice chocolate and different kinds of caramel confectionery. And this is just a small selection of our Christmas treats.