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How to make the most of the Swedish calendar 2019

Jan 11, 2019 anne_pihl
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The newbie guide to optimizing your holiday calendar, Swedish celebrations and red flags for scheduling meetings. Essential reading for anyone new to Sweden or working with Swedes.

Written to help you plan effectively for the working year ahead, this guide helps you to make the most of your time in Sweden. It highlights all the occasions you need to know about and provides additional calendar tips about Swedish culture.

Public holidays in Sweden 2019

1 January (Tuesday) New Years Day (Tuesday)
6 January (Sunday) Epiphany
13 January (Sunday) Tjugondag Knut
19 April (Friday) Good Friday
21 April (Sunday) Easter Sunday
22 April (Monday) Easter Monday
1 May (Wednesday) First of May
30 May (Thursday) Ascension Thursday
6 June (Thursday) Sweden’s National Day
9 June (Sunday) Pentecost Sunday
22 June (Saturday) Midsummer
2 November (Saturday) All Saints Day
25 December (Wednesday) Christmas Day
26 December (Thursday) Boxing Day

Midsummer’s Eve (21 June), Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are not technically public holidays, but they are almost always treated as such anyway.

Days to avoid booking meetings (aka good times to take holidays)

As a newbie in Sweden, it’s important to understand that Swedes take holidays seriously and that you will be expected to do so too, both in terms of your own work/life balance and in terms of respecting your colleagues’ time off work. The following overview will also allow you to maximize your holiday entitlement for the year.

  • All Public holidays (See list above for public holidays during 2019)
  • Sports week (This takes place during week 9 i.e. 3rd – 9th March in Stockholm). However, this holiday varies by location in Sweden, spread out geographically between weeks 7 and 10, to avoid overload at the ski-slopes.
  • 29 April “Squeeze Day”* linked with Valborg. Most people will take this day off.
  • 30 April Valborg (Walpurgis Eve) is a de facto* half-day and most people will be leaving work early (but check with your employer first). This year Valborg falls on a Tuesday, so by asking for the 29th off plus a full or half-day on the 30th depending on your company’s policy, you can get a five-day stretch off work.
  • 31 May “Squeeze Day”* linked with Ascension Thursday. Most people will take this day off.
  • 21 June (Midsummer Eve) Not an official public holiday but practically everyone will be off
  • 1-31 July This is not a misprint but does refer to the whole month of July. Sweden more or less goes into shutdown in July. In fact, effective work time ends more or less at mid-summer as Swedes get into summer mode  and resumes in mid-August. Some come back to work at the beginning of August, depending on how much annual leave they have,  but things don’t really get going again until mid-August.
  • 13 December (Lucia) Not an official public holiday but a bad day for meetings, as people will be starting late and/or leaving early to join in Lucia celebrations.
  • 21 Dec – 5th January (Christmas Holiday Period). Most people in Sweden take holidays over Christmas and it will be very difficult to get hold of anyone after Friday 20th December until the New Year. This year the Christmas holidays are positioned so that all fall on weekdays. This means that if you also take off the 23rd, 27th, and 30th (or if your employer offers any or all of these as squeeze days*), you’ll get 12 consecutive days of holiday. Take off the 2nd and 3rd as well and you’ll get a 17-day stretch for the price of only five days’ annual leave. Perfect if you want to take a longer trip. Most people will be back at work on January 6th.

Essential Fika dates to celebrate

Here are five classic fika celebrations (themed cake days) to enjoy as part of your Swedish experience. It’s never wrong to offer fika (coffee and cake) in Sweden, especially if you have organised a meeting, and you’ll get bonus points from your colleagues for being aware of and celebrating these occasions.

5 March  Semla Day (Semlor are wheat buns flavoured with cardamom and packed with whipped cream and almond paste)
25 March Waffle Day
4 October Cinnamon Bun Day
6 November King Gustav II Adolf Day (The traditional cake to celebrate this former Swedish king is a creamy sponge cake decorated with marzipan or chocolates silhouettes of King Gustav II)
7 November Kladdkakans Day  (Chocolate Mud Cake Day)

Name day celebrations: your chance to calendar-schmooze Swedes

Most Swedish names have an official name day in the calendar on which they are celebrated. Congratulating a colleague or contact on their name’s day should help to get any conversation, email or meeting off to a good start.

Example: Swedish name days for January

  1. New year’s day (no name)
  2. Svea
  3. Alfred
  4. Rut
  5. Hanna
  6. Epiphany (no name)
  7. August
  8. Erland
  9. Gunnar
  10. Sigurd
  11. Hugo
  12. Frideborg
  13. Knut
  14. Felix
  15. Laura
  16. Hjalmar
  17. Anton
  18. Hilda
  19. Henrik
  20. Fabian
  21. Agnes
  22. Vincent
  23. Emilia
  24. Erika
  25. Paulus
  26. Botilda
  27. Göte
  28. Karl
  29. Valter
  30. Gunilla, Gunhild
  31. Ivar

See the full list of Swedish Name days, month by month.

You can also search alphabetically for your Swedish colleagues’ name days.

And finally, Swedish calendar terms you should know

  • De facto* days
  • Red days
  • Squeeze days*
  • Week numbers

You will frequently hear these calendar and holiday terms used in Sweden and can read an explanation here 

We hope you have a great 2019 in Sweden!

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