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National day of Sweden – Celebration and History

National day of Sweden – Celebration and History

Want to know more about the National day of Sweden? In this article, I explain how we celebrate the Swedish national day and share some history on why it’s celebrated. 

In recent years, the Swedish national day has gained more popularity around the country, after it was marked as a public holiday. Nowadays, there are public gatherings and official celebrations of the national day of Sweden.

When is the national day of Sweden?

The Swedish national day is celebrated every year on the 6 June, which is the same dag as the day of the Swedish flag.

Swedish national day


Why is the Swedish national day celebrated?

Some might argue that this is a stupid question, but the fact is that there is no historical connection on why the national day of Sweden should be celebrated. Most nations celebrate their independence or a big event that changed the country’s history forever. 

However, Sweden has never really been occupied, except for shorter periods in time, and only limited areas of the country. Neighbouring Norway has a big celebration on their national day, the 17th of May, when they celebrate their independence from Sweden. 

Since 1893, the national day of Sweden is celebrated in memory of Gustav Vasa, who was elected king in 1523. It’s also meant to be honoring the government reform from 1908. But it wasn’t until 1983 that the 6th of June became the official national day in Sweden. 

Previously, this day was reserved and named the Swedish flag day. And it wasn’t until 2005 that the government decided to make the Swedish national day a public holiday. 

Sweden National Day

How to celebrate the national day of Sweden?

After the announcement of the national day as a public holiday, the celebrations have become more frequent and popular. Many Swedes are now gathering in parks, wearing T-shirts with Sweden prints or traditional folk costumes. 

The largest celebration of the national day of Sweden takes place at Skansen, in Stockholm. The royal family joins the celebration at Skansen, which is aired live on Swedish television.

During the celebration, one can listen to speeches and live music, or simply enjoy the lively atmosphere where people are waiving Swedish flags. It’s also customary to sing the national anthem, known as “Du Gamla, Du Fria”. 

Celebration of the Swedish national day

Photo: Marie Linner /

What do you eat on the Swedish national day?

Contrary to other national holidays in Sweden, there is no Swedish food that is served traditionally on the Swedish national day. But in recent years, it has become a tradition to have a barbecue or a picnic in a park. 

It’s also common to eat “Smörgåstårta”, which is a type of sandwich cake with several layers. Many Swedes will also eat hot dogs with ketchup and mustard. 

Swedes celebrating the national day

Photo: Imfoto /

Dancing and Swedish flags are common elements in the celebrations. For those who want to take their Sweden national day celebration to the next level, a traditional folk costume can be worn.

It doesn’t have to be the official Sweden costume, a regional folk costume will also be fine to wear. 

Celebrate the Swedish national day

Photo: Rolf_52 /

History of the national day of Sweden

Sweden’s national day is celebrated on the 6th of June since 1983. But it has only been a public holiday since 2005. The biggest reason why it’s celebrated is to remember when Gustav Vasa was elected king in the 16th century and the government reformation in 1809. 

Both of these historical events took place on the 6th of June. The initiative of this date came from Artur Hazelius, who is the founder of Skansen and the Nordic Museum. The first unofficial national day celebration took place on Skansen in 1893, on the 6th of June. 

Back then, Artur Hazelius wrote the following:

såsom de fosterländska minnenas högtidsdag har på Skansen införts den 6 juni, Gustafsdagen, vilken där har firats och hädanefter kommer att firas såsom svensk nationaldag“.

This basically means, “like the feast of the memories of our motherland, on Skansen, the 6th of June, Gustafsdagen, has been celebrated and will thereafter be celebrated as the national day of Sweden”

Before 1893, the 6th of June was known as “Gustafsdagen”, in honor of Gustav Vasa, one of the most important and greatest Swedish kings. He established Swedish sovereignty independent of Denmark.

The royal family on their way to Sweden National day celebrations

Photo: Stefan Holm /

Selection of the official date

There were several options when the government was to decide when to celebrate the national day of Sweden. For example, Gustav Adolfsdagen (6 November), Karl XII’s day of death (30 November), the King’s birthday, or Midsummer’s eve. 

The reason for this is mostly because Swedes have never won their independence, like Norwegians. Because of that, it was difficult to pin-point a certain date that should be dedicated to the celebration of Sweden’s national day. 

You can celebrate the Swedish national day in these places

National day celebrations in Stockholm

In Stockholm, the national day of Sweden is celebrated in Kungsträdgården and Skansen. But there are other organized celebrations in various parks in the city as well. 

Since 2005, the Swedish king invites the public to visit Stockholm’s Castle without entrance fee as well. 

National day celebrations in Gothenburg

In Gothenburg, the official celebration takes place in Slottskogen, where visitors can see live performances, dancing, and join other activities. 

National day celebrations in Skåne

In Lund, there are public celebrations in the Cultural Park. In Malmö, there is a large celebration at Stortorget and in Folkets Park. In Helsingborg, you can celebrate the Swedish national day on Fredriksdals Friluftsmuseum. 


Throughout the day, several parades can be seen in the largest cities in Sweden, with the largest parade taking place in Stockholm. 

Parade on the Swedish national day

Photo: Stefan Braeutigam /

The Swedish flag day

Before the 6th of June became the official national day of Sweden, the day was dedicated to the Swedish flag, which still occurs on the same day. 1916 was the first year that the Swedish flag day was celebrated. 

Swedish flag day

The national day of Sweden is a flag day

If you have a flagpole at home, the Swedish flag should be hoisted on the 6th of June. 

More reading from Sweden

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