Monday, June 07, 2004

Yesterday was Sweden's national day, a day when this nation of people who seem to have a horror of nationalism celebrate their country. Of course Swedes believe that the Swedish way of doing things is the fairest and best way, but it's not something to celebrate, it's something that just is. There's no such thing as a "Basic Truth" day, after all.

Still, they're not 100 percent sure that the Swedish way of doing things is the fairest and best way; they do have plenty of complaints about the Swedish way of doing things.

So, these apparently two contradictory emotions are surely contributing factors to the fact that the national day isn't even a bank holiday, although this is supposed to change sometime in the future, when one of the more obscure religious bank holidays - Ascension or Pentecost - will be booted from the vacation-day calendar.

Outside parliament, a hundred Aryan-nation types were arrested (scroll down a little to read the article). I guess they were celebrating by attacking some leftist demonstrators in an attempt to make up for the rest of the country's lack of jingoist fervor.

Me, I celebrated by attending a ceremony at City Hall (in the Blue Hall where they have the Nobel Prize ceremony) for the latest crop of new Swedish citizens. Surrounded by hundreds of people from all over the world, we were welcomed by various low-level politicoes and serenaded by fellow immigrants, mostly in English. Then we sang the national anthem and they fed us salmon and gave us sparkling wine, and I got a certificate with my name misspelled.

I said all of about 50 words during the whole thing: I spoke for about 15 seconds to the guy sitting next to me, a Finn who has lived in Sweden for 30 years. I asked him why he was getting his citizenship now, and he said it was because damn Finland finally allowed dual citizenship. Although I had thought it was Sweden that finally allowed dual citizenship. And then I said thanks later to the politician who gave me the certificate.

Yet somehow, it was pleasing and awkward and ever so Swedish in the self-consciously un-Swedishness of the whole event, despite the singing the national anthem.

I was charmed, and even a bit proud, even if that is a most un-Swedish sentiment to have.

The Swedish word for the day is Sveariket, a word from which the name Sverige - the Swedish word for Sweden - is derived. It was an area of Sweden inhabited by the Svear, an area that seems to be the equivalent of today's central Sweden and the six provinces of Svealand: Dalarna, Närke, Södermanland, Uppland, Värmland and Västmanland

- by Francis S.

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