Some cultures in the world are so old that we’ve forgotten the origin of them. However, the culture and tradition of Sweden though are old but not forgotten. We live with them and come to love them as part of our life cycles as we observe them. Therefore, in today’s post, I’ll talk about the culture and tradition of Sweden. But, before we do that, let’s get to know a little bit about Sweden.
In 98 C.E., a Roman historian named Tacitus mentioned the name Swedes but, Svear, Sviones, and Swaensker are the original names that were given to the people of Sweden and then led to the modern English term Swedes. Sweden is a sovereign nation for over a millennium which has fostered the cohesion of the culture and tradition of Sweden.
With Swedish immigrants, culture and tradition have become multidimensional for the last sixty years. The aboriginal people called Sami or Lapp inhabited the northern portion of the nation along with some neighboring countries. The diversity is not confined to Swedish tradition and culture but the landscape as well. The land is plain except for the chains of mountains in the north and west along the borders of Norway.
The diverse land of Sweden with forests, numerous lakes, and the rocky long coastline along the Baltic sea has been graced with the Gulf stream which keeps the temperature moderate. The distinctive nature of the land along with the cultural, political, and economic hub of the country Stockholm have encouraged me to dig deeper and find out how the history of the culture and tradition of Sweden has embraced the modern Swedish customs. So, let’s get into it, shall we?
History of Sweden
The emergence of the Nation
When the ice age ended around 12,000 and 10,000 B.C.E., the first people who were a tribe of reindeer hunters had arrived at the land. The stone, bronze, and iron equipment had been forged and trades with the Roman empire had been happening by the time Tacitus was there. Between eight hundred and one thousand and fifty C.E., groups of Vikings pursued commerce and plunder as they traded up the Russian rivers and over the Baltic sea.
About one thousand C.E., several provinces started to unify as a single, loosely federated kingdom. In the proceeding centuries, the monarchs were capable of implementing a maximizing degree of national authority. In 1523 C.E., Gustav Vasa was elected as a King and the building of States were advancing under his reign at a rapid pace. He seized land from the nobility and the Roman Catholic Church, established a central administration that was inspired by Germany, suppressed dissent, promoted the Lutheran reformation, imposed taxes, and built a hereditary monarchy.
Sweden was an integrated kingdom and the economy was dominated by agriculture and was later alternated by copper and iron mining. During the next two hundred fifty years, Sweden battled wars against Norway, Poland, Denmark, and Russia. Though the nineteenth century brought forth peace, mass emigration to North America happened due to poverty.
Anthropology: Social Custom and Daily Life in Sweden
Due to the increasing settlement, in the urban areas, the rural folk traditions are disappearing. However, since the 1990s, there is a resurgence of interest in the culture and tradition of Sweden in the cities and towns. Folk music, special national attires, and dance are still important in areas like Dalarna, Gotland, and so on.
- Across the country, Spring is celebrated on the last day of April with songs and bonfires. Around the longest day, June 21 the Swedish celebrates Midsummer Eve. A large pole that is ornate with flowers and leaves, is placed into the ground and people dance around it in the ceremony.
- Some celebrations in the culture and tradition of Sweden have religious connotations to them like Easter, St. Lucia’s day, Christmas, Whitsuntide, Advent, etc. On the morning of the 13th December, Lucia candlelights are enlightened which are a recent tradition yet very popular.
- At the darkest time of the year, the ceremony features Lucia candles along with a “Light Queen” who wears a crown of ignited candles and a white gown, representing the returning sun.
Heading to the Modern era
Seden’s history was neither simple nor forgotten. However, the Swedish are divided into two personas as they are proud of their history, they become uncomfortable when people try to confine them to their expected international and continental role. Therefore, when the opportunity presented itself, Sweden embraced it fully. The incredible capability to stay out of wars, the remorse location on the map, and the endless ore and timbre supply make the nation a rich and unique one as well.
While other nations suffered from class divisions and conflicts, the Swedish people strongly believed in their future and the consensus of their thoughts. The country at one time forgot Sweden’s history and tradition as the “folkhem” or the trust in the welfare society and the innovation developed immensely strong. To the young generation, the old culture and tradition of Sweden were redundant. They refused to look back on their old customs and traditions. They were just eager to reach their future which was just blooming on the horizon.
It was a long time after the Second World War, the rapidly globalized country found a balance. In contemporary Sweden, the old and the new customs exist side by side, often as two parallel worlds, often as a consolidated whole.
Understanding Sweden’s Culture
Importance of Symbolism in Sweden
The Prime Minister of Sweden Per Albin Hansson depicted Sweden as a folkhemmet which means “the people’s home” in 1928. The metaphor of the country as a family household assisted to nourish the welfare society for years to come. Folkhemmet was standing at the heart of the other institutions such as old-age homes, day-care centers, schools, hospitals, municipal meeting centers, music schools for the community, and anything that symbolizes socio-democratic mutual care and ideals of equity.
Another vital symbol is connected to the agrarian past of Sweden. For instance, Maypoles, midsummer dances, Christmas feasts, and painted horses made of wood from the province of Dalarna. As mentioned above, urbanization and industrialization emphasized the culture and tradition of Sweden of the twentieth century into modernity. High technology and logical planning became significant collective orientation, which can be seen in corporations and suburbs. The social innovations between the 1960s and 70s resulted in many foreigners believing Sweden as the forerunner country of the future.
The Influence of Seasons on the Culture and Tradition of Sweden
In Sweden, culture is closely intertwined with the alternating seasons. Several traditional festivities are connected to the farming year in Sweden alongside the harvest time, spring tillage, and the fishing and hunting season. Most conventional customs are celebrated with the family in the home with the only real exception of midsummer’s eve. The occasion is of Pegan origin and people want to be outside to greet summer and celebrate it with others.
The Lutheran Church was not extremely fond of these processions and festivities in the community and the scattered population with the cold weather became enough reason for festivities to be celebrated inside with the family. However, as time changes so do culture and tradition. Though visitors will only see deserted roads in the winter, summer in the recent years is opposite in celebrating it with each other’s company and in street parties and festivities on the street with food and music which bring people together.
To concentrate on folk music and promote it, a number of “fiddlers meet” take place all across the country. In the 1700s, the fiddler or violin arrived in the nation and at the hands of the farmers. The musical culture in Sweden has survived as often, fiddlers were usually playing indigenous folk music alone at the dances.
The International Impact on Swedish Tradition and History
Modern Sweden society has incorporated the customs and traditions of other cultures as they have been interwoven with the culture and tradition of Sweden due to immigration. And at the same time, “new Swedes” have absorbed the traditions of Sweden and it was oftentimes introduced into the family by the Children. The schools and day-care centers often deploy a considerable effect on society. At best the consequence is cross-cultural fertilization.
Most of the Swedish people already aware of the month of fasting for Muslims called Ramzan, and what it entails. In current times, many traditions of other cultures have found their way to the culture and tradition of Sweden due to media or other commercial pressures. Halloween and Valentines’s day has also been incorporated into the Swedish calendar, though with some slight modification.
The origins of these customs perhaps will be forgotten but the people have adapted these in their lives then their little interest remains about the origin of those cultures as long as it lives among people. For instance, in Sweden, the Santa Clause is German and the name of Saint Martin’s Day comes from a French Bishop here, and Lucia was a Sicilian saint. However, they don’t render them any less enjoyable.
Sweden’s Culture of Food
Swedish Cuisine has been internationalized and changed by travel abroad, immigration, and imports. However, the national cuisine of Sweden, the buffet of appetizers referred to as “smorgasbord” still remains the national favorite. The quintessential Swedish kitchen represents the jarring northern climate while fresh food can only be seen in the brief but intense summer. To sum it up, I have to agree with the mother of Swedish cuisine, the eighteenth-century chef Cajsa Warg who said, “You take what you get.”
The culinary tradition of Sweden always reflects the significance of being capable of storing and preserving products for the winter months. Pickled herrings, Lutefisk or dried cod immersed in water, Lingonberries, Knackebrod or crispbread and other fermented and preserved dairy products like yogurt-like fil, cheeses all represent their necessity for food that can be kept through the colder portions of the years. They celebrate Christmas on 24th December with the conventional Julskinka ham. A spiced, mulled wine called Glogg is also enjoyed during this time of the year.
The Anthropological Characteristics of Swedish People
At first, they can come across as a bit reserved but the Swedish people are really friendly and are always happy to help anyone that might need it. An easy way to know Swedish people is to join their clubs, non-profit organizations, associations, and societies. If you learn some Swedish language, that might be a better way to know the culture and tradition of Sweden.
- A very renowned trait of the Swedish people is their love for Mother Nature. Several Swedes like to spend their breaks by the sea or in the forest. Nature is very easily available to everyone as there is a right of common access where people can be in touch with nature everywhere whether it’s forests, lakes, seas, or beaches across the nation.
- Being a little early to your appointment is always good but not too early as punctuality matters to Swedes. For example, in the bank or shop, it is known to make an orderly queue and there is almost no good reason for anyone to show up later but cut the line to enter first. There are even “queuing tickets” in some places where you can take tickets from a machine and when your number comes up, it’s your turn.
- It is a common act of courtesy to take off your shoes before you enter a home of a Swedish family, mostly in winter. Sometimes Swedes bring a lighter pair with them while visiting others’ homes. It is also a tradition to have a present for the host when you’re at someone’s house as a form of gratitude.
During my research, I came across a detailed blog. If you want, you can visit it here.
Places to Visit to Know the Culture and Tradition of Sweden
- Drottningholm Palace: Only one wing is closed to the public that is the home of The Majesties, the King, and the Queen.
- Vasa Museum: Full of intriguing history, it is one of the most attractive places in Sweden since it opened in 1990.
- Stockholm archipelago: Over thirty thousand islands, the serenity of this place will garner you peace of mind.
For further information on places to visit in Sweden, you can look here.