1. Svenska
  2. العربية
  3. English

Moira Uggla: Who turns up their nose at a day off?

Springis here! After a long-drawn-out winter it is now lighter and warmer, days are longer, migrant birds are back again.There is a more optimistic feeling about everything. Even the Swedes have thawed in the spring sunshine, more people are out and about, and they look happier.
But winter and spring have something that summer and autumn generally lack - they have lots of holidays that are celebrated even though the original reason for them is long forgotten. Who turns up their nose at a day off?
Kristianstad • Publicerad 12 juni 2023
Detta är en personligt skriven text i Mosaik Kristianstadsbladet. Åsikter som uttrycks är skribentens egna.
Moira Uggla, översättare, krönikör mm Kb Mosaik
Moira Uggla, översättare, krönikör mm Kb MosaikFoto: Victor Lindstammer

It all starts on Halloween, the last day of October, on the evening before All Saints Day. Since 1st November is All Saints Day, evil spirits took their chance to create chaos the evening before.

This is what people believed in the Gaelic/Celtic parts of the British Isles, in Scotland and Ireland, areas where many people left their homes and emigrated to America. They took their customs with them, and now people in Sweden celebrate a custom they believe is American. That's what can happen.


Advent comes at the end of November/the beginning of December - a period of preparation before Christmas. Christmas is celebrated on a large scale, with days off work, presents, lots of food, parties with family and friends. The food is very traditional, but here too small differences are creeping in.

Midsommar firas en lördag mot slutet av juni.
Midsommar firas en lördag mot slutet av juni.Foto: Astrid Einarsson

When I came to Sweden more than fifty years ago it was still quite common for people to make their own 'lutfisk'. You had to buy a fine piece of dried cod, soak it in water for several days, let it lie for a few more days in water with lime and soda and then steam it and serve it with mustard sauce, potatoes and peas. Nowadays it is hard to find dried fish, and not many people buy it ready to cook either.

But one of my own traditions was missing completely - from home I was accustomed to having a big, dark fruit cake with marzipan and icing, decorated with little marzipan figures and holly leaves. Christmas cake, completely unknown here.

”In Scotland, it's lucky to be the "first foot" - the first person to enter someone's home from outside”
Moira Uggla

New Year traditions are quite similar everywhere - the new year is welcomed with a toast, wishes for a happy new year are exchanged , families get together and enjoy - even more - delicious food. In Scotland it is lucky to be a 'first foot' - the first person to come in from outside in the new year. Ideally the 'first foot' should be a tall, dark-haired man - but everyone gets a warm welcome!

Christmas celebrations are rounded off with another holiday - Epiphany, 6th January, when the three wise men came to Bethlehem with gifts for the baby Jesus, according to the Christian tradition.

The next thing to look forward to is winter sports holiday week, in February. A lot of people go off on a ski trip, but even if you stay at home there are lots if activities for the young people who are on holiday from school.

After that comes Easter, with a few free days, and after that the church holidays Ascension Day and Whitsun. And then comes 6th June, Sweden's national day, which is a public holiday. On 6th June 1523 Gustav Vasa was chosen to be king of all Sweden, and the date has been officially celebrated as Sweden's national day since 1983.

Midsummer is celebrated on a Saturday at the end of June. It is a tradition to dance round a maypole (nothing to do with the month of May, 'maja' is an old word for 'to decorate'). One of the most popular songs is about little frogs that are funny to look at because they have no ears or tails - and while you sing you hop round and pretend to be a little frog. That made a permanent impression on me!

And after Midsummer it isn't long until it is Halloween again.

Have a good summer! We'll be back after the holidays.