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The tradition of celebrating a National Day in Sweden was born at Skansen. Artur Hazelius, the founder of Skansen, wanted to establish an annual day that would be a patriotic focus for the nation and he chose the sixth of June. This was the day on which, in 1523, Gustav Vasa had been proclaimed king and it was also the day on which the current constitution had been agreed in 1809. Sweden's National Day has been celebrated at Skansen every year since 1893.
For many years the celebration was known as National Flag Day but the day has now been marked by a public holiday. This will be celebrated in traditional fashion: members of the royal family join a procession to Skansen where there are speeches, flag ceremony, singing, brass bands, folk music, etc., and broadcast live by Swedish Television.
History of the celebrations
We can read about the history of the celebrations in an article written by Arne Biörnstad in 1980:
"The sixth of June has been established at Skansen as the anniversary of the nation's history and will henceforth be celebrated as the Swedish National Day", wrote Artur Hazelius in the Skansen yearbook for 1893. At a time when there was a special focus on the national identity he thought it important to establish a Swedish National Day. The sixth of June was chosen for historical reasons. This was the day on which, in 1523, Gustav Vasa had been proclaimed king and it was also the day on which the current constitution had been signed in 1809.
In 1893 the first spring festival was organized at Skansen and this culminated in a splendid celebration of the National Day on the sixth of June. The festivities were very formal in character, with speeches by three distinguished citizens. The historian C.T. Odhner, who was head of the Swedish National Archives, spoke about Gustav Vasa and the political development of Sweden. O.R. Themptander, the County Governor of Stockholm, spoke about the development of the Swedish constitution while the theologian and Biblical scholar P. Waldenström spoke about the nation. This was the beginning of what was to become National Flag Day in Sweden.
By the third year, in 1895, the celebration had already caught on. Three thousand nursery-school children from Stockholm took part equipped with little flags. The following year, there was a splendid procession with bowmen in traditional folk costume from Dalarna, mounted cavalry from the time of Erik XIV, foot soldiers and halberdiers in uniforms from the 17th and 18th centuries as well as large crowds of youngsters wearing folk costumes.
The celebration of 1899 was particularly festive for it coincided with the ninetieth anniversary of the constitution. In 1900 the festivities started with 10 000 nursery-school children marching to Skansen headed by flag-bearers and drummers. In 1905 the Swedish flag was given a special celebration on the first of November. The union between Sweden and Norway had been dissolved and the "pure" Swedish flag, without the union emblem in one corner, was displayed on public buildings throughout the country. A huge flagpole was erected on Renberget and the archaeologist Oscar Montelius made a patriotic speech in the presence of the King, the Crown Prince and several other members of the royal family, "a large number of the capital's leading citizens" as well as several thousand pupils from Stockholm schools.
The 1916 programme continued for a number of years. After that the annual concert at Hasselbacken was discontinued. The grand celebrations at the Olympic stadium continued until 1962 but the next year the celebration was moved to Skansen where the sixth of June had been celebrated every year since 1893 except in 1902. That year rain fell all day but in general the sun has shone down on the blue and yellow emotions and flags.
From: Arne Biörnstad, Boken om Skansen, Bokförlaget Bra Böcker, 1980.
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