Something Swedish


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My First Birthday in Sweden – Hurrah Hurrah Hurrah Hurrah

Celebrating my first birthday in Sweden couldn’t have been better. I got birthday wishes, presents, hugs, and cake from new family and friends. Phone calls, Skype calls, messages, and photos from friends and family back home.

Gift from hubby!

I was a bit nervous about my first birthday in a new country: What will it be like? What are the cultural differences?
Last weekend we celebrated my birthday with my family-in-law. They bought a banana cake, gave me presents, and sung happy birthday to me:
 

The Swedish Birthday Song:

Ja, må hon leva, Ja, må hon leva, Ja, må hon leva uti hundrade år.

Ja, visst ska hon leva, Ja, visst ska hon leva, Ja, visst ska hon leva uti hundrade år.

(x2)

“Ett fyraldigt leve… leve hon. HURRAH, HURRAH, HURRAH, HURRAH.”

English Translation

Yes, may she live, Yes, may she live, Yes, may she live for a hundred years.

Oh sure, she will live, Oh sure, she will live, Oh sure, she will live for a hundred years.

“A four fold cheer … cheer for her. HURRAH, HURRAH, HURRAH, HURRAH.”

Listen to it here:

My in-laws taught me how to knit for my birthday! They own a knitting and yarn store, Lerdalaboden, so learning from them was easy- even if it was in Swedish! I’m working on a hat and scarf right now. My husband cooked some delicious chicken Alfredo and bought another cake today!

Some Common Swedish Birthday Customs

  • Breakfast in bed- unfortunately this is usually only for children. The family comes into the room with breakfast (sometimes with cake) and sings for the birthday boy/girl.
  • Some Swedes enjoy Smörgåstårta (Sandwich cake) on their birthdays. Read more about that in a previous post. Hubby bought me a shrimp sandwich this morning instead.
  •  A popular birthday cake is Prinsesstårta (Princess Cake)- a sponge cake with lots of cream inside and a shell of marzipan. Read more about that in a previous post.
  • Swedish flags are often used to decorate the birthday cake.
  • Bring your own birthday cake to work to celebrate yourself with your workmates.
  • Surprise parties are not common in Sweden, instead you plan your own festivities if you want.

Vocabulary

Grattis på födelsedagen: Happy Birthday!

Grattis: Congratulations

Tårta: Cake


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Swedish Cake Culture

This week my husband came home with flowers and a cake for me because I took my SFI C test to move onto the next Swedish course and am very positive about it.

Having cake in Sweden is a very traditional was of celebrating, but it is a little different than I am used to. If I were truly Swedish, I would have bought my own cake.

Whenever someone has a birthday, achieves something, gets a promotion, graduates, etc.,  it is that person who buys or brings their own cake to celebrate. No need to worry about who will bring the cake,  it is always the person of honor. The upside is you can always buy your favorite type of cake for your own special occasion, instead of pretending to enjoy the flavor someone else picked out (Although, don’t we all buy princess tarta anyway?).

This tradition is very strange for me (And other expats I’ve met), as I wouldn’t ever think about buying my own cake in the U.S., but wait for some one else to do it.

If you are congratulating someone is  Swedish you would say “Grattis!,” but if you say “Gratis” instead you are saying Free.


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Swedens National Day

Blue and yellow flags everywhere you look- Swedish pride is soaring today!

Even Google Waved its Swedish Flag!

Sweden celebrates June 6th because it marks the date when Gustav Vasa became King in 1523, making Sweden independent from Denmark and Norway for the first time. Also, on June 6th in 1809 Sweden adopted a new constitution.  Sveriges Nationaldag is a new name for the holiday, from 1916-1983 it was called Svenska flaggans dag (Swedish Flag day). This National Day has only recently become a red day, meaning a day off, since 2005. Swedes are known for not being overly boastful, so in an effort to make the holiday more popular the government decided to make it a red day so the people have the day off to celebrate. Being so new, many surveys have revealed that many Swedes still don’t know how to observe it and just enjoy the day off. Some people celebrate by watching the Royal family’s ceremony in Stockholm. Most people consider Mid Summer to be their national day for celebration.

Today I went out in hopes of finding something special for the occasion – but was only met with closed stores and empty streets. Red days make Halmstad a ghost town, but I was determined to do something to celebrate my first Nationaldag in Sweden. I decided to play Swedish Flag Scavenger Hunt in town.

I thought it would be a good day to visit one of my favorite places, an open air museum with old Swedish cottages. It is up on a high “mountain” which gives a great view of the city. To my delight, this is exactly where the rest of the town was! I finally found the celebration – and people, and flag jackpot! I couldn’t understand the speeches or songs, but  I didn’t need to. Just seeing everyone waving Swedish flags, listening, laughing, clapping, and being proud was enough.

Years ago there was a competition to create the national pastry to be eaten on this very special day,  it is called Nationaldagsbakelsen. But many people don’t know about it, it seems. Even googling for it is a challenge. All I can gather is that there are Strawberries and Almond paste. In hopes to eat this national specialty I went to the bakery in the morning, thinking it would be much like the semla craze, but alas the bakery was closed along with all other stores since it is a red day. No wonder this cake is so elusive and unknown, how should one be introduced to a special cake if the bakeries are closed on the day you should be eating it? Of course, there are recipes and perhaps people buy it the day before?

I decided to make my own version:

I might have cheated with a small premade snake cake (perfect size for two people who love cake), but I cut it in half and added a nice layer of Almond paste to make it special and even more Swedish. If it was a full size cake I would have added strawberry slices around the flag of blueberries and banana, but I think it was a huge success! Hubby came home with blue and (unbloomed) yellow flowers and a wooden Swedish flag so I have a keepsake from my first Nationaldag!


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Smörgåstårta: “Sandwich Cake”

As promised in the end of this post, it’s finally Smörgåstårta time! Last weekend was the first time I had this very special Swedish treat while celebrating my husbands nephews birthday. As you can tell by the name this is no typical cake – or sandwich. It’s something in between. In the shape of a cake and eaten on special occasions as a meal, Smörgåstårta is something Swedes look forward to. I’ve always been so curious about this sandwich cake and was so excited to have a slice – although I did it all wrong.

My slice was seriously lacking. What I didn’t know is that piling on extra shrimp (A plate full) is customary and expected (in this family at least!), almost like a race to see who can get the most from the neighboring parts of the cake! I took some shrimp from my husband because after looking around my plate looked rather naked!

When I first came to Sweden the thought of  grossed me out because I kept comparing it to cake, which you have to get out of your head. Smörgåstårta is served cold and has everything a sandwich could, plus more. The only “cake” aspect is the size, shape, and the layering of creamy food and bread. But instead of things like custard, pudding, or jam it is mayonnaise and sour cream or Creme fraiche, lots of bread instead of cake, and most commonly lots of shrimp, eggs, cheese, ham, cucumbers, salmon, and tomatoes. As you could imagine it is very rich and filling, and not too healthy with all that mayo! The cake we had also had fruit cocktail in the mix, I really liked the contrast.

Each smörgåstårta is unique and different because the possibilities are endless of what you can put inside or on top as decoration. Feast your eyes on this Pintrest board I started especially for different Smörgåstårtan to share with you all! They can be decorated so elaborate and beautifully you have to take a look! Pinterest.com/SomethinSwedish/smorgastarta/

If you are in Sweden then I think Smörgåstårta is a specialty that must be sampled! Especially if there is any type of celebration or party!

Oh, and don’t worry- we also had a very delicious and perfectly sweet dessert cake afterwards!


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