Gustav Adolph’s Day

Most people in Sweden seem to agree that November is a month which is really not needed. The worst time of the year. The colours of autumn have given way to the greyness of winter. The trees are bare. It rains. It is dark, the beginning of the “descent into darkness” that starts with Halloween. It is cold, but not cold enough for snow. The anticipation of Christmas has not quite taken hold. It is a month of nothing.

So I was surprised to see flags on the buses today as we drove through the “dimma” (a lovely Swedish word for fog). Whatever could Sweden be celebrating today? Maria informed me it was Gustav Adolph’s day, and that on this day there is a special type of pastry (sw. bakelse) that should be eaten. Really? I thought. These Swedes! Always looking for something to celebrate, and a reason for coffee and pastries (fika is the untranslatable Swedish word).

And who, I asked, was Gustav Adolph? Oh just some Swedish king from the distant past, Maria replied. And that was that. Why we should celebrate him she had no clear idea. I have since discovered, courtesy of Wikipedia, that he was one of Sweden’s greatest military strategists, and that under his rule Sweden became a superpower. It was the third biggest empire in Europe during the 1600s – after Russia and Spain. But it had to remain in a state of constant war to stay in that position. The thirty years war, to be more precise. But exactly what that was about, apart from pure imperialism, I am completely vague on. Something to read up on before next November the 6th. And I really need to get hold of some of those special pastries too.

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