Public holidays in Sweden
Public holidays in Sweden (Swedish: helgdagar) in Sweden are established by acts of Parliament (the Riksdag). The official holidays can be divided into Christian and non-Christian holidays. The Christian holidays are jul (Christmas). trettondedag jul (Epiphany), påsk (Easter), Kristi himmelsfärds dag (Ascension Day), pingstdagen (Pentecost) and alla helgons dag (All Saints' Day). The non-Christian holidays are: nyårsdagen (New Year's Day), första maj (International Workers' Day), Sveriges nationaldag (National Day) and midsommar (Midsummer); Midsummer is, however, officially also a Christian holiday to celebrate John the Baptist's birthday.
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In addition to this, all Sundays are official holidays but they are not as important as the main holidays. The names of the Sundays follow the liturgical calendar and they should be categorized as Christian holidays. Easter Sunday and Pentecost are always on Sundays, but they are seen more like main holidays than ordinary Sundays. When the standard working week in Sweden was reduced to 40 hours by the Riksdag, all Saturdays became de facto public holidays. Holy Saturday, Midsummer's Eve, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve are also de facto holidays.
Part of the Swedish tradition is the celebration of Lucia (Saint Lucia Day). She is the only saint to be celebrated in Lutheran Sweden (as well as those parts of Norway and Finland, where Swedish influence has historically been prominent). The celebration, which, however, is not a public holiday, always takes place on 13 December and retains many pre-Christian traditions. The same is also true for many holidays in Sweden.
In Sweden, a public holiday is sometimes referred to as röd dag (red day), as it is printed in red in most calendars. It is quite common for some businesses to close at noon the day before certain holidays, and also if a holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, Swedes will commonly take off the klämdag (squashed in days, or squeeze day) that falls between the holiday and the weekend.
In Swedish tradition many holidays have their main celebrations not on the Day but on the Eve of the holiday, meaning one day earlier. This is especially significant on Christmas Eve and Midsummer Eve, but also on New Year's Eve, however in this case not really unique. Christmas Eve, Midsummer Eve and New Year's Eve might very well be the single most important holidays during the entire year for the Swedish. These days are however only de facto holidays. There are also de facto half-day holidays (with some variation depending on employer): Twelfth Night, Maundy Thursday, Walpurgis Night, the day before Ascension Day and the day before All Saints's Day.
The Swedish calendar also provides for special flag days. Flag days are in some cases official holidays or the birthdays and namedays for the Royal family and informal holidays like Gustavus Adolphus Day (November 6) or the Nobel Day (December 10). There is no formal connection between flag days and holiday. Many flag days are ordinary workdays.
The official National holiday of Sweden is celebrated on June 6, a status which it was finally granted in 2005, removing Whit Monday as a public holiday. The Name days in Sweden calendar is also denoted. It has a long history, originally a calendar of saints, some names have stuck throughout centuries while others have been modernized.
Several observances at once
There are instances where official holidays, de facto half days, official flagdays and other observances clash and several celebrations may run concurrently. One such case is the April 30 which is immediately followed by May 1. April 30 is a de facto half day because it is the Walpurgis Night and the main day for celebrations to the arrival of the spring season. The following day is actually Walpurgis Day; however, in the calendar it is primarily denoted as May Day, or Labor Day. This means that depending on your sympathies you may either celebrate it as May Day or as Walpurgis Day. In addition to this April 30 is also the king's birthday and an official flag day. Also May 1 is an official flag day by virtue of May Day or Walpurgis day. If either day would fall on a Sunday that day would also in that respect be an official holiday and a Christian holiday, as one of the Sundays following Easter.
In 2008, due to the unusually early Easter, Ascension Day occurred on 1 May. This was the first time this happened since May Day became a public holiday in 1939. The next time these holidays overlap is in 2160. The next time Ascension Day will coincide with Walpurgis Night on April 30 (which is the earliest possible day) is in 2285.
List of public holidays in Sweden
|Date||English name||Local name||Remarks|
|1 January||New Year's Day||Nyårsdagen|
|6 January||Epiphany||Trettondedag jul|
|moveable||Good Friday||Långfredagen||The Friday before Easter Sunday (2020: April 10)|
|moveable||Easter Monday||Annandag påsk||Monday after Easter Sunday (2020: April 13)|
|1 May||International Workers' Day||Första Maj|
|moveable||Ascension Day||Kristi himmelsfärds dag||39 days after Easter Sunday (2020: May 21)|
|6 June||National Day of Sweden||Sveriges nationaldag|
|moveable||Midsummer's Day||Midsommardagen||The Saturday during the period 20–26 June (2020: June 20)|
|moveable||All Saints' Day||Alla helgons dag||The Saturday during the period 31 October–6 November (2019: November 2)|
|25 December||Christmas Day||Juldagen|
|26 December||Second Day of Christmas||Annandag jul|
Public holidays always on Sunday
Some public holidays in Sweden always occur on Sundays but are in fact official public holidays. This will usually not affect working schedules or ordinary opening hours.
|Easter Sunday (påskdagen)||The first Sunday after a full moon on or after March 21 (2020: April 12)|
|Pentecost Sunday (pingstdagen)||The 7th Sunday (49 days) after Easter Sunday (2020: May 31)|
De facto holidays
The day before an official holiday is in most cases treated as a de facto holiday in two variants, full day and half day.
De facto holidays
The de facto holidays are almost always treated as official holidays by employers, so most employees working regular office hours do not work these days.
|De facto holiday||Date of observation|
|Midsummer Eve (midsommarafton)||The Friday during the period 19–25 June. (2020: June 19)|
|Christmas Eve (julafton)||December 24|
|New Year's Eve (nyårsafton)||December 31|
De facto half holidays
The de facto half holidays are often treated with the afternoon off, but this varies depending on employer. It's more common to work a full workday than not these days. Many of the employees that have half days off have a slightly longer workweek the rest of the year to compensate for the time off. In many cases employees take the whole day off, combining the half holiday with some other form of leave.
|De facto half holiday||Date of observation|
|Twelfth Night (trettondagsafton)||January 5|
|Walpurgis Night (valborgsmässoafton)||April 30|
|All Saints' Eve (alla helgons afton)||The day before All Saint's Day (2019: November 1)|
Eves always on Saturdays
For most employees there is little practical difference between these eves and the other Saturdays of the year, which means they are de facto holidays.
|Eves always on Saturdays||Date of observation|
|Holy Saturday (påskafton)||The day before Easter Sunday (2020: April 11)|
|Whitsun Eve (pingstafton)||The day before Pentecost (Whitsunday) (2020: May 30)|
Permanent klämdag (squeeze day)
Days between a holiday and a weekend are in Swedish called klämdagar (squeeze days). These may arise at different holidays, but there is one permanent klämdag every year. Many people are off work on klämdagar getting long weekends. In some cases employers treat some of these days as de facto holidays; in other cases people may use some form of leave (e.g. vacation).
|Permanent klämdag (squeeze day)||Date|
|The Friday after Ascension Day||2020: May 22|
Christmas week and the first days of January
During Christmas week and the days before and after Epiphany many Swedes are off from work, combining holidays, de facto holidays and other forms of leave (e.g. vacation). It is in fact quite common to leave work before Christmas Eve and then not come back to work until around January 10 (after the weekend after Epiphany). Most people however work at least some of these days. For instance, in 2019, Christmas Eve falls on a Tuesday, with Christmas Day falling on a Wednesday and St. Stephen's Day on a Thursday. Thus, some employees are automatically allowed the day off (as they are klämdagar) on the Monday before Christmas Eve (December 23) and the Friday after St. Stephen's Day (December 27), while others chose to take those days off as vacation. The same goes for the Monday before New Year's Eve (December 30). However, the Thursday and Friday after New Years Day (January 2 and 3 of 2020) are not considered klämdagar, since they are two workdays falling next to each other. Thus, if people wanted those days off, they would have had to take them as vacation. As most people in Sweden are not required to work on Saturdays or Sundays, people could in fact work their last day on December 20, having taken two or five vacation days, and then not have to return to work until January 7 (the Tuesday after Epiphany).
- "Lag (1989:253) om allmänna helgdagar". Parliament of Sweden. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
- "Lag (1989:253) om allmänna helgdagar Svensk författningssamling 1989:1989:253 t.o.m. SFS 2004:1320". Riksdagen.se. Retrieved 9 January 2018.