National Day celebrations in Humlegården with dixieband "Humlegårdens promenadorkester"
The sun broke through the clouds, bringing us warmth on a windy day. A good crowd of people had now gathered on the lush field in Humlegården park. Many were standing up as the national anthem was played by the dixie band on stage. Some were singing, though only quietly. A company of young actors dressed up as royalties were posing to the side of the stage. Children were running around, chasing balloons. No flagpoles in sight. No one dressed up in blue & yellow, the colors of the Swedish flag. Behind the field, on the playground, children were making paintings and putting together vehicles in wood. Welcome to Sweden, country of lagom. Even national day is celebrated the lagom way!
I think back of the way in which national day (Koningsdag) is celebrated in the Netherlands, where people massively dress up in orange, gather for outdoor concerts, sing, dance and celebrate. Where the street turn into giant flea markets with children selling off their toys and trinkets. Where the king and his family walk the streets of a selected town, greeting people and admiring different performances and creations. With a history of more than 130 years, it has truly turned into a feast for the nation, embraced by all.
Swedish national day was previously only called “Day of the Swedish flag” with a tradition of celebrating since 1916. Renamed to national day in 1983, it only became a bank holiday in 2005. I remember those first years where colleagues were happy to have a day off, but had no idea how to observe or celebrate national day. Hardly any events were organised and my church at that time jumped in the gap by organising an outreach with activities for kids. These days however, there seem to be many events organised by local municipalities and cultural institutions, with the main event - hosting the royal family - being at open air museum Skansen of course.
National Day celebration in Hagaparken, photo: Michelle Job Photography
As a Christian, one could argue that national days are nothing to celebrate. Why lift up the nation state and the monarchy when we are citizens of Heaven, serving the highest King. But I feel that it is quite beautiful to observe a national holiday that is not affiliated with the Christian religion. It allows for people from all backgrounds and beliefs to come together in celebration of the country we call home. It reminds us of the values that characterise this nation and that bind us together, such as peace, democracy, equality, solidarity, freedom of speech and religion and environmental consciousness. These are values to cherish and celebrate. In addition, in a country where 16% of the population is born in another country, we have a day to come together and build new, common traditions.
I pray that national day will be a time for us to lift up diversity as a strength and to embrace one another as neighbours.