June 6th -Svenska Flaggans Dag
Sweden celebrates on June 6 its heritage and the nation. It has been called just “Flaggans Dag” -the day of the flag. It is not in memory of a recent dramatic event, or an independence movement or a revolution, since Sweden has not been occupied, but the date reflects the coronation of Gustav Vasa on June 6, 1523. He had rushed back to Dalarna, his home, where he rousted up a bunch of men to walk to Stockholm and drive out the Danish king, who was in charge. The king of Denmark was head of the “Kalmar Union” between Denmark, Sweden and Norway. It had been established for common defense against German expansion, but it had already been through many trials, and after 1523, Sweden was no longer in the Union. The date was also chosen for adoption of a new constitution in 1809, but nothing much was made of that date for some time.
A celebration of a National Day was started by a man with strong feelings for Swedish traditions, Artur Hazelius. In 1891 he established the outdoor museum and park in Stockholm called SKANSEN, which undoubtedly is familiar to many readers of this newsletter. It features many historic houses and native wild animals in a zoo. There is also a place for folk dancing and other entertainments—such as sing-alongs. In 1893 Hazelius thought that June 6 would become Sweden’s National Day, but it was not wide-spread for a long time. In 1916 the new and current version of the flag was established and that started more general celebrations. Swedes are very nationalistic and in time it became common that they fly their flag on very tall poles at almost every home and not just on special holidays—certainly on family birthdays and at party times. The picture above shows a typical scene if you drive along a Swedish highway. If not a flag day, they put up a “vimpel”a long thin blue and yellow “place keeper”.
The day has become widely celebrated nowadays with singing and speeches in most municipalities and cities, and It is the day on which immigrants to Sweden are given their citizenship in fine ceremonies around the country. Since 2005 it is a “red” day, a national holiday. A lovely occasion to emphasize this day was used by King Gustav VI, who on June 6, 1953 presented a flag to a representative of Swedish-Americans1.
I include this black and white picture —even though the blue and yellow would be so beautiful, because I find it so moving. Color photos were not so common back in 1953.
1 Weibill J. & E.W. Fleisher, 1954: Sverige-Nordamerica, Fran aupptacktsfard till linjefart. Almquist och Wiksell, Uppsala, Sweden, PP.121. (Photo on page 117)
- Kristina Katsaros (Swedish-American)