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!