June 7, 2012

Swedish National Flag Day: June 6, 2012



     Roy sang out the words to the few of us sitting on my patio on a very nice June 6, 2012, afternoon:

Du gamla, du fria

Du gamla, Du fria, Du fjällhöga nord
Du tysta, Du glädjerika sköna!
Jag hälsar Dig, vänaste land uppå jord,
Din sol, Din himmel, Dina ängder gröna.
Din sol, Din himmel, Dina ängder gröna.2

I cannot read the words. I know little of the Swedish language. But Roy is an immigrant who grew up in Sweden. I, on the other hand, am the granddaughter of a Swedish immigrant, Ida Victoria Berg (wed William Cornell, Brocton, Massachusetts), making me one-quarter Swedish.

In the winter Roy works at Seven Springs ski resort in Southwestern Pennsylvania. In the summer he’s often done construction work in another state.

I met him many years ago through my writer friend Diane. At the time I was receiving letters from a distant relative in Sweden—in Swedish. I needed an interpreter and Roy volunteered in that position.

We don’t see each other too often.

Several years ago my husband Monte and I took Roy to Cleveland Heights, Ohio, on December 13 to attend the Sancta Lucia festival held at the Church of the Savior United Methodist Church on Lee Road. It’s the church where my son and his family attend, and where there is a number of Swedish members I have come to know through the years.

The Lucia tradition can be traced back both to St Lucia of Syracuse, a martyr who died in 304, and to the Swedish legend of Lucia as Adam’s first wife. It is said that she consorted with the Devil and that her children were invisible infernals. Thus the name may be associated with both lux (light) and Lucifer (Satan), and its origins are difficult to determine. The present custom appears to be a blend of traditions.

In the old almanac, Lucia Night was the longest of the year. It was a dangerous night when supernatural beings were abroad and all animals could speak. By morning, the livestock needed extra feed. People, too, needed extra nourishment and were urged to eat seven or nine hearty breakfasts. This kind of feasting presaged the Christmas fast, which began on Lucia Day (to continue reading this click on the link at the end of this post1)

At the beginning of this week, Roy called me. He informed me that June 6 is Swedish National Flag Day in Sweden. I suggested perhaps we should gather on my patio, where I could hang the Swedish flag.

Unfortunately his coworkers were unable to attend the almost impromptu party. However, Roy, Diane, Joanne (a friend) and Emma (a teenage neighbor) enjoyed a simple repast of spaghetti and Swedish meatballs (made by Roy).

     Roy was dressed in a yellow shirt and blue pants, while I wore a blue jacket and yellow jeans. We were color-coordinated with the blue and yellow on the Swedish flag. It was adopted in 1906.

Roy shared information about Swedish history with us. Swedish Flag Day is like our 4th of July, an Independence Day.

The off-center cross is often called the “Scandinavian cross,” and is taken from the flag of Denmark.

Although the current flag wasn’t instituted until just more than 100 years ago, it has been used in some form or another for about four centuries previously. It is thought that the flag’s blue and yellow colors come from the national coat of arms, which originated in the 14th century. This coat of arms features three gold crowns on a blue field.3

Roy informed us that June 6, 1523, was the day of King Gustav Vasa’s coronation.  Prior to that time Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland were united in their government.

…it was only in 1916 that this holiday was celebrated at the Stockholm Olympic Stadium. Until 1983, the National Day was known as Svenska Flaggans Dag (Swedish Flag Day). In 2005, it was declared a public holiday.

During the celebration of Sweden’s National Day, the King and Queen take part in a ceremony at Skansen, Stockholm’s open-air museum, where the yellow-and-blue Swedish flag is run up the mast, and children in traditional peasant costume present the royal couple with bouquets of summer flowers. In recent times, special ceremonies welcoming new Swedish citizens are held around the country on National Day. 4

After sharing about Sweden, Roy continued singing the unofficial Swedish national anthem.

Du tronar på minnen från fornstora dar,
då ärat Ditt namn flög över jorden.
Jag vet att Du är och Du blir vad du var.
Ja, jag vill leva jag vill dö i Norden.
Ja, jag vill leva jag vill dö i Norden.

Jag städs vill dig tjäna mitt älskade land,
din trohet till döden vill jag svära.
Din rätt, skall jag värna, med håg och med hand,
din fana, högt den bragderika bära.
din fana, högt den bragderika bära.

Med Gud skall jag kämpa, för hem och för härd,
för Sverige, den kära fosterjorden.
Jag byter Dig ej, mot allt i en värld
Nej, jag vill leva jag vill dö i Norden.
Nej, jag vill leva jag vill dö i Norden.2

Du Gamla, Du Fria was originally known as Sång till Norden (Song to the North) written by Richard Dybeck in 1844. In 1938, Sveriges Radio played the song at the end of evening transmissions and the song was epitomized as Sweden’s national song, despite the lack of official recognition.

It is not the official national anthem of Sweden as attempts to make it the “official anthem” failed.2


     It was through my genealogy research that I made a connection with Ida Victoria Berg’s family in Sweden. Since then an interesting thing has happened. Pictures of my father, sent over to  Sweden by my grandmother in the early 1920s, have been returned via e-mail and Facebook to our family in this country. In fact, those  members of my paternal family who have a Facebook account are in contact with Ann Aberg. The Internet has made exchanges like this far easier than they were in the past.

In fact, Ann provided me with pictures of the Le Procope Café in Paris, the oldest continuously operating café in the city. This café, opened in the late 1600s may be a scene in my novel. While Ann’s daughter was in school in Paris Ann visited there, and offered to provide me with her photographic work. I truly appreciated this input.


     Perhaps Roy and I have started a tradition here in Southwestern Pennsylvania: the celebration of Sweden’s Flag/Independence Day. I hope so, and I hope in the future we leave sufficient planning time to include other Swedish immigrants and Americans.

So if you are Swedish and live in Southwestern Pennsylvania, let me know in the comment box below. Thanks!



A Time With Grandson Marcus: Part 1

Moon Rocks

My Tinge of Irish Heritage: The Googins Family

Get Well Cards Requested for Burn Victim

Carolyn’s Compositions Top Twelve Posts (April 2012)








  1. Hello. You must learn to cooking Janssons temptation.Its very swedish and eat with meatballs and ham.

    Comment by Ann Åberg — June 10, 2012 @ 7:49 am | Reply

    • Hi Ann,
      Thanks for the link. I noticed some of my readers have explored it. How are you doing? I haven’t been on Kitty’s Facebook for a long time.
      Your American relative, Carolyn Cornell Holland

      Comment by carolyncholland — June 11, 2012 @ 10:58 am | Reply

  2. And so we have a traditional midsummer in Sweden.

    Comment by Ann Åberg — June 24, 2012 @ 3:05 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for sending your picture link. Your celebration looks like fun. I will try to send you the information you asked for but it will take a few days.

      Your American relative, Carolyn Cornell Holland

      Comment by carolyncholland — June 24, 2012 @ 10:59 pm | Reply

    • Nice site, Ann. Thank you for sharing the Swedish midsummer experience.
      Your distant relative, Carolyn Cornell Holland

      Comment by carolyncholland — June 30, 2012 @ 10:52 am | Reply

  3. […] Swedish National Flag Day: June 6, 2012 […]

    Pingback by Sancta Lucia Part I: Background « Beanery Online Literary Magazine — December 12, 2012 @ 10:40 pm | Reply

  4. långban värmland

    Your grand grand parents from Sweden. /AnnÅberg

    Comment by annswedenphoto — May 1, 2013 @ 5:54 pm | Reply

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