What Holidays and Traditions are Celebrated in Sweden?
Celebrating holidays and traditions in Sweden
There are many different types of holidays and traditions celebrated in Sweden, from religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter through to cultural celebrations such as Midsummer and the National Day of Sweden, as well as more general school holidays. Read our guide below so that you understand the meaning behind each tradition, as well as how and when they are celebrated.
The Swedish academic year begins in mid-August and runs until the beginning of June in the following year. The school year is divided into two semesters, known as the Autumn and Spring Terms, with the following holiday periods observed:
- Christmas holidays: Two weeks from Christmas Eve
- Winter break: Dates vary depending on the region; visit this page for dates in your region
- Easter Holidays: From Good Friday to Easter Monday, usually in March or April
- Summer Holidays: Nine weeks from the middle of June
- Autumn Holidays: One week from the end of December.
Federal Public Holidays
Sweden observes several federal public holidays, each of which is outlined below. If a federal public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it is moved to the first available weekday.
New Year’s Day (1 January)
New Year’s Day celebrates the beginning of the new calendar year. Generally, people attend large parties on the night of 31 December, ringing in the New Year at midnight.
Epiphany (6 January)
Epiphany is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God through Jesus Christ. Practicing Christians attend religious ceremonies, but most Swedes use the day to relax and spend time with friends and family.
Good Friday and Easter Monday (March to April: First Sunday After the First Full Moon After the Vernal Equinox)
A Christian holiday, Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ following his crucifixion three days prior. Swedes often take advantage of the long weekend to go on a short holiday.
International Worker’s Day (1 May)
A day dedicated to the rights of workers and an important holiday in the Swedish calendar. Marches are held throughout major cities and towns so that workers may voice their grievances and enact change.
Ascension Day (Date Fluctuates)
A Christian feast day that celebrates the ascension of Jesus Christ’s earthly body into heaven. However, with declining numbers of Swedes practicing Christianity, it is becoming more and more secularised.
National Day of Sweden (6 June)
This day celebrates King Gustav Vasa’s ascension to the throne in 1523, a moment which marked the creation of modern Sweden. People celebrate by attending ceremonies, carrying flags and donning the Swedish colours of yellow and blue.
Midsummer (Between 19 and 24 June)
The holiday is centred around the summer solstice. Huge celebrations and parties take place across the country to celebrate the longest day of the year and summer. Traditional celebrations include the erection of a maypole for revelers to dance around and the decoration of houses in green plants, as this is thought to bring good luck and health.
All Saints Day (1 November)
A day dedicated to all Christian saints and an acknowledgment of the connection that exists between heaven and earth. People traditionally place candles and lanterns on the graves of loved ones. This day also signals the beginning of winter in the north of Sweden and the commencement of the alpine snow season.
Christmas Day (25 December)
The chief celebrations for Christmas take place on Christmas Eve in Sweden. Celebrations are similar to Singaporean customs, with families coming together to feast, swap presents and celebrate the moment. Some Swedes use the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, but it has become secularised throughout much of Sweden.
Most people decorate their homes with Christmas lights and Christmas trees and children believe that Santa Claus will visit their home and bring them gifts, so long as they have been well behaved.
Boxing Day (26 December)
Families use this day to relax and clean up after the Christmas festivities, while many Swedes will also head to the mountains for the ski season. A key tradition of Boxing Day in Sweden is the kick-off of the bandy season. Bandy is a team winter sport played on ice, similar to ice hockey. On Boxing Day, several elite teams play off against each other, drawing huge crowds.
Other Swedish Holidays and Festivals
In addition to federal public holidays, there are various other holidays, festivals and celebrations observed by the Swedish population, each of which is outlined below.
Valentine’s Day (14 February)
Much the same as Valentine’s Day in Singapore, this festival is celebrated in memory of St Valentine. The key part of day for Swedes is to show their love and appreciation for each other.
St Patrick’s Day (17 March)
Like most of the world, Sweden turns green on the 17th of March to celebrate Irish culture. There are a number of celebrations throughout Sweden, including the march through Stockholm by the Swedish Irish Society.
Warpurgis Night (30 April)
Warpurgis Night celebrates the coming of Spring, with customary celebrations consisting of gathering around a bonfire and eating gravlax (fresh salmon cured in sugar, salt and dill).
Passover (14th Day of the First Month of the Jewish Year)
Passover is a Jewish tradition, which lasts for eight days and celebrates the survivals of the Jews in Egypt. The tradition is marked with ritual dinners called Seder. While Passover is not a federal public holiday, most Jewish companies close during this period.
Mother’s Day (Last Sunday in May)
Just like Mother’s Day in Singapore, children of all ages use this day to show their appreciation for their mother, often buying presents and gifts.
Father’s Day (Second Sunday in November)
Once again, just like Father’s Day in Singapore, children of all ages use this day to show their appreciation for their father, often buying presents and gifts.
Halloween (31 October)
Halloween began in European cultures, which believe that on this day magic is at its most potent, with ghosts and spirits able to contact the physical world. Halloween was first celebrated to keep the evil spirits at bay. However, the customs in Sweden have largely been adopted from America. Young children dress up and go door to door to “trick or treat’ their neighbors, and people decorate their homes with ‘Jack-O-Lanterns’, which are hollowed-out pumpkins with a candle inside.
St Lucia Day (13 December)
St Lucia Day is observed in the lead up to Christmas. It is a celebration of light and a way of warding off the long, dark days of winter. The chief celebration involves young girls or women dressing in white and wearing a crown of candles. Pictures of St Lucia are also placed around Sweden.