Baby we’re burning – Swedes, songs and Satanists


This weekend, the 30th April, in Sweden is Valborgsmässoafton. Yes, another one of those long indecipherable Swedish words.

This one translates as Walpurgis Eve, and is a day enshrined in tradition not only in Sweden but in other European countries such as Germany, Holland, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland. Rather Baltic in other words.

The name ‘Valborg’ is from an English Saint but, despite that, this isn’t really a religious celebration. It’s more to do with the welcoming of spring, and feels rather pagan actually. In the evening on Valborgsmässafton, Swedes gather around huge bonfires and listen to songs. These songs are in the form of traditional choir music designed especially for this occasion to shake off  the nasty dark winter and celebrate the burgeoning buds of the lighter season.

And like many traditions in Sweden, this one also has a rural origin. These bonfires are part of a Swedish tradition dating back to the early 18th century. On this day, farm animals were let out to graze and bonfires lit to scare away predators and other evil beings. This is rather ironic as Walpurgis Eve is also an important holiday in Satanism at it marks the founding of the Church of Satan.

But religion aside. On Walpurgis eve, I am watching the Swedes watching the flames, listening to music and looking forward to the spring and summer months ahead.

We survived another winter, and summer is coming!

Dorky Swedes – Töntiga Svenskar


For all of their advancement in technology, social issues and equality politics, many Swedes are also hiding a less sophisticated side to their culture. Scratch the surface, and its not far to their dorky side.

I’ve often reflected over this when I go to clubs here in Stockholm. Like many venues around the world, Stockholm nightclubs can have more than one dance floor. The dance floors are often divided into music types, for example, techno, house, pop…..and Eurovision. Usually, the Eurovision dance floor is the smallest one, as the club owners probably don’t want to appear unrefined.  But it is usually the fullest of all the dance floors. It is packed with Swedes shaking their stuff and screaching – loudly – to the lyrics of Carola, Conchita and Loreen. It is so unbelievably dorky. And I love them for it.

Let’s change scenario and go to a house party. Hand shaking, polite conversation and rosé wine. All very cultivated. Fast forward five hours when people have knocked down a couple of bottles of plonk. The cool bossa-jazz background music has been changed and a Spotify competition has evolved playing…….Eurovision. Party guests are bopping around to the old-time Euro melodies such as ‘Good Vibrations’, ‘It Hurts’ and ‘ABC’. It is so unbelievably dorky. And I love them for it.

So what’s the deal? Why do the otherwise cool Swedes turn into a bunch of yahoos when they are at parties or  nightclubs? Well, maybe in a world of technology, of digital communication, of stress and demands, Eurovision music provides escapism. Its simple melodies and inane lyrics don’t require any effort or thought. The basic rhythms can just wash over you and, for a moment, you can forget the seriousness of the world beyond.

It’s either that or the fact that Swedes are just dorks when they drink.

Sweden’s Pink Thursday – washing and witches

jesus feet

Today, the Thursday before Easter is called Skärtorsdag in Swedish. As the word ‘skär’ translates as a shocking pink colour, many people joke that today is ‘pink Thursday’. But the word ‘skär’ in this case relates to something else – something far more biblical.

The word ‘skär’ is an early Nordic word meaning clean and pure. And here, we see a parallel to the English word for ‘Skärtorsdag’. In English, today is called ‘Maundy Thursday’ and it relates to the religious rite known as ‘the maundy’ which involved the ritualistic cleaning of feet. According to Christian belief, today was the day that Jesus performed this act until the recipients had clean and pure feet. It also is the day of the infamous Last Supper.

However, in Sweden today, ‘Skärtrorsdag’ is not celebrated in any great religious fashion but in a pagan manner. A old pagan belief in Sweden was that on this day witches would mount their broomsticks to fly away to the legendary mountain known as Blåkulla. At Blåkulla it was believed that the devil held his earthly court. There the witches celebrated their sabbath and danced with the devil.

In modern day Sweden, we see this reflected in the many children who dress up as witches. These kids paint Easter cards and walk around the neighbourhood knocking on doors to wish everybody a happy Easter. In exchange, they hope to receive Easter sweets.


Don’t let those Swedes fool you

april fool

Today is April 1st, which is celebrated in many countries, including Sweden, as April Fool’s Day. On this day, you are allowed to commit pranks and jokes on people – all in good spirit of course. The earliest reference to April Fool’s Day is in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales from 1392, but nobody really knows the origin of this tradition.

One common place these jokes take place are in the newspapers, and it’s fun to sift through them to see if you can identify what’s real news and what’s a hoax.

Today, a few of the jokes that have been identified in the Swedish press are:

– Banks are going to start charging entrance fees, roughly the same as a cinema ticket

– Princess Madeleine plans to give birth at Västervik’s Hospital in Kalmar. The hospital is currently investing in trendy uniforms in order to appeal to the princess, who is very interested in fashion.

– The three naked beaches in Varberg are going to be closed. Nudity is no longer ok.

–  On the island of Gotland, in the Baltic Sea, the local council will introduce parking fees for the entire Island. In this way, the people who live in the countryside are treated the same way as those who live in the main town.

– In Karlstad, a wind turbine has mysteriously disappeared

– In Katrineholm, 300 house owners are being offered fiber broadband for one krona if, today, they fax in their name, address and a motivation in poem form as to why they deserve fibre at such a low price

– An American hamburger chain is launching a perfume in Japan that smells of hamburger. Called ‘Flame Grilled Fragrance’ it will cost 360 kronor.

In Sweden’s largest national paper, Dagens Nyheter (Daily News), I Think I have identified not one, but two, April jokes!

– 700 000 homes are going to lose their TV channels since the Swedish broadband supplier has failed to reach agreement with SBS Disney. Alot of very popular TV programs will be inaccessible from today.

– In a studio in a Stockholm suburb, a designer has developed figure-huggin outfits for female priests. Now her clothes are a global success.

I’m sure there are a lot more out there in the media. What others have you seen?

If you fall for these lies, the expression to say in English is ‘April Fool!!

In Sweden it’s ‘April! April! You stupid herring!‘ (Now, that I’m afraid is the truth!)