In Sweden, public holidays are created by acts of Parliament (the Riksdag). The official holidays are split into two categories: Christian and non-Christian festivals. The Christian festivals are july and august (Christmas, though it has strong roots from the Norse paganism). trettondedag jul (Epiphany), psk (Easter), Kristi himmelsfärds dag (Ascension Day), pingstdagen (Pentecost), and alla helgons day Non-Christian festivals include: nyrsdagen (New Year’s Day), första maj (International Workers’ Day), Sveriges nationaldag (National Day), and midsommar (Midsummer) (Midsummer).
Furthermore, all Sundays are official holidays, although they are not as significant as the major holidays. The titles of the Sundays are based on the liturgical calendar, and they should be considered Christian festivals. Easter and Pentecost are usually on Sundays, although they are regarded as major festivals rather than regular Sundays. When the Riksdag lowered the normal working week in Sweden to 40 hours, all Saturdays became de facto public holidays. De facto holidays include Holy Saturday, Midsummer’s Eve, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve.
The celebration of Lucia is a Swedish custom (Saint Lucia Day). She is the sole saint honored in Lutheran Sweden (as well as those parts of Norway and Finland, where Swedish influence has historically been prominent). The event, which is not an official holiday, is always held on December 13 and maintains many pre-Christian customs. The same may be said for many Swedish vacations.
A public holiday in Sweden is often referred to as röd dag (red day), since it is written in red on most calendars. It is customary for certain companies to shut at noon the day before certain holidays, and if a holiday comes on a Tuesday or a Thursday, Swedes will often take off the klämdag (squeezed in days or squeeze day) that falls between the holiday and the weekend.
Many holidays in Sweden have their major festivities not on the day itself, but on the eve of the holiday, which is one day earlier. This is particularly noticeable on Christmas Eve and Midsummer Eve, but also on New Year’s Eve, but not in this instance. Christmas Eve, Midsummer Eve, and New Year’s Eve may be the three most significant holidays for the Swedes during the year. However, they are merely de facto holidays. Twelfth Night, Maundy Thursday, Walpurgis Night, the day before Ascension Day, and the day before All Saints’ Day are also de facto half-day holidays (with minor variance depending on employer).
Special flag days are also included in the Swedish calendar. Flag days are statutory holidays in certain instances, as are royal birthdays and namedays, as well as informal festivals such as Gustavus Adolphus Day (November 6) and Nobel Day (December 10). There is no official link between flag days and holidays. Many flag days are regular working days.
Sweden’s official national holiday is observed on June 6, a title that was ultimately given in 2005. The name days in the Swedish calendar are also indicated. It has a lengthy history; it was originally a calendar of saints; some names have remained unchanged throughout the years, while others have been updated.
Several observances at once
There are times when official holidays, de facto half days, official flagdays, and other observances conflict, and several festivities may take place at the same time. One such example is the 30th of April, which is immediately followed by the 1st of May. Because it is Walpurgis Night and the primary day for celebrating the beginning of the spring season, April 30 is a de facto half day. The next day is Walpurgis Day; however, on the calendar, it is mainly referred to as May Day or Labor Day. This implies that, depending on your sympathies, you may celebrate it as either May Day or Walpurgis Day. In addition, April 30 is the birthday of the King of the United Kingdom and an official flag day. May 1 is also an official flag day due to May Day or Walpurgis Day. If either day falls on a Sunday, it will also be an official holiday and a Christian holiday, as one of the Sundays after Easter.
Because of the abnormally early Easter in 2008, Ascension Day fell on May 1. This was the first time this has occurred since May Day was declared a national holiday in 1939. The next time these holidays coincide will be in 2160. The next time Ascension Day and Walpurgis Night occur on April 30 (the earliest feasible date) is in 2285.