Something Swedish

Crayfish Party!: “Kräftskiva”


I celebrated my first Kräftskiva this weekend! With special decorations, special food, dedicated drinking songs, and plenty of snaps –  to call it a crayfish “party” isn’t enough. All throughout the month of August Swedes are throwing or attending Kräftskivas. While its not an official holiday, it is a festive tradition with history.

The king of Sweden started eating crayfish in the early 1500’s, then in the mid-late 1500’s crayfish were brought to Swedish waters. It wasn’t until the 1700’s that normal country men began to eat them. In the early 1900’s a bacteria started to wipe out the crayfish in Europe. It became illegal to fish for crayfish in Sweden throughout the year, except for a short period in August – thus Kräftskiva, a celebration of being able to eat crayfish once a year. Even now that the prohibition was lifted in 1994, and crayfish are readily available all year long, Swedes wait until the “Kräftpremiär” date to celebrate and eat.

The Man on the Moon plays a big part in Kräftskiva, presumably because fishing for crayfish takes place at night, guided by the moonlight. The Man on the Moon is depicted with the dancing and drinking crayfish everywhere – on napkins, plates, tablecloths, party hats (Yes, it is THAT festive!), bibs (and THAT messy), and especially on Kräftskiva lanterns.

Most crayfish are pretty small and you only eat the tail and the claws (And noisily slurp out the salty juices), so it is common to have other food along side. This is the only Swedish festivity where herring, potatoes, and meatballs aren’t in the spotlight: A cheese pie and lots of shrimp is traditional along with hardbread and cheeses.  Beer is the beverage of choice at kräftskivas, aside from snaps, of course!

Since you don’t celebrate Kräftskiva on a specific date, you might be attend more than one each August!

Special kräftskiva drinking songs, the last one is sung to the tune of “twinkle twinkle little star”:

The largest of the bunch- twice as big as the others:

It is common to eat imported crayfish for kräftskiva, because Swedish crayfish are very expensive, but said to be the tastiest (And they were tasty!)

It takes a lot of time and practice to crack open and eat crayfish, I only got through 4 by the time the platter was empty!

Happy Kräftskiva!


21 thoughts on “Crayfish Party!: “Kräftskiva”

  1. I’m no expert, but I think you did great 😉
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love the pics 😀

  3. Those look delicious!!!

  4. We had crayfish last night after watching the Swedish handboll team play great against France but fall one goal short. The meal was planned, gold medal or not for Sweden, and yummy. You had a lot more festive time than we did from the looks of it!

  5. Did you write the lyrics yourselves? They’re not very good 🙂

    Jamie Oliver’s kräftskiva

  6. Mariette here. I love your posts. They are so professional and I actually get lots
    of information. I´m glad you are enjoying Sweden and all its festivities.

    • Hej Dan & Mariette! Glad you had some crayfish at least! Did you celebrate kraftskiva festivities last year? It was a lot of fun! I’m glad my posts are informative, I love researching everything!


  8. Meg: This brings back very fond memories of the time we spent with my sister Kathy and her husband Joe, once, in their timeshare in the French Quarter in New Orleans many years ago — crawfish, corn on the cob, huge strings of fat garlic, sausages and small potatoes were all cooked together in a drum, then drained and dumped on long picnic tables which were covered with newspapers, to be eaten and enjoyed by the condo lovers there for the week! What a tasty and happy blast it was. Then we would rinse off and jump in the pool for a romp in the water!! Afterwards, some people would bring out different ‘specialties’ they had made to share in the feast, and it was the first time I ever had eaten alligator!! Those were the days . . .

    • That sounds like an amazing time! What a great memory I stirred up 🙂 Whenever I thought of cray/crawfish I always thought of New Orleans, I never new they were big in Europe, although I’m pretty happy it doesn’t have anything to do with alligator! lol

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  10. Where can I find the wonderful, hilarious Crayfish Party decorations… hats, bibs, napkins, crayfish garland and other wonderful paper creations? Thanks!

    • They are hilarious in a charming way, aren’t they?! You can usually find them at any supermarket (Hemköp, Willy:s) towards the middle/end of summer – if you are in Sweden, that is! Otherwise, maybe you’d have some luck online, but I’ve never looked.

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