Crayfish parties – a quintessential Swedish affair

Can you get any more Swedish than a crayfish party? I think the only thing more Swedish might be the celebrations on Midsummer’s Eve, but both activities have so much in common that are just typically Swedish. And probably a remnant of our Viking heritage.

One of the first songs a Swedish speaking kids learns is probably ”Helan går”, which is the song you sing when you drink your first toast. And you toast and sing and drink a lot at crayfish parties! Sometimes I think the parties are just excuses to sing and wear silly hats, but unfortunately for me they also involve crayfish, which I am allergic to.

(Can you even be Swedish if you are allergic to crayfish? It’s like being allergic to Christmas, or summer cottages, or something as essential as that. By the way – we still use the Norse word for Christmas, Jul.)

I never used to think that much about my heritage, but now that I can’t go to crayfish parties (or even get invited to some – some people chose not to invite me, because of my allergies. My allergies are apparently a litmus test for my friendships…) I’ve had time to really ponder how much the culture I’ve grown up with is a part of me. And what parts I can do without.

Foreigners sometimes ask us Finland Swedes: ”So what are you then, Finns or Swedes?”

I answer: ”Both”. Because the answer depends on the context of the question.

If you ask me about my nationality – I’m a Finn.

If you ask me about my language – definitely a Swede.

If you talk about my Viking heritage – then suddenly to my surprise I’m a Finn. I identify as a person who lives here in Finland, whose ancestors are firmly from this ground that I stand on, and not those ancestors far away in Sweden who went pillaging all over the world a thousand years ago.

But the funny thing is – I am much more Viking than I realized! We all are. We still say ”Skål!” like the Vikings did, and sing songs and drink unlike the Finns who do it in the opposite direction (first they drink until their completely plastered, then they start singing…). We even have funny hats, like the Vikings! And we celebrate the old heathen holidays, like Midsummer’s Eve, Christmas/Lucia and Walpurgisnight.

So if you’ve ever wondered what happened to the Vikings – now you know. Every August they sit on verandas or porches and wear silly hats and eat cooked crawfish and sing songs all night long, and have not a care in the world!

P.S. Here are some more pictures from my parent’s crayfish party. A sophisticated version, with lots of flower arrangements (mostly made by me this time) and candy, but still – silly hats and everything that belongs at a crayfish party!

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