It has been a week of celebrations: first our national holiday and then all the graduations from the Swedish equivalent to high school. Swedes are notoriously bad at celebrating the nation; we haven´t really had a national holiday until a few years ago, and to get it we lost Whit Monday, which some are still bitter about. It´s not that we don´t like our country, really, we think we live in the most splendid country in the world. We just don´t like to point out the obvious, and anyway, it might sound boastful, which it is not a virtue in this country to be. Also, the national anthem, which refers to the days when Sweden was “great” in the 17th Century and fought, killed, pillaged and generally were being bastards down on the continent, can feel a bit embarrassing. There are still countries where they refer to prison bars as “Swedish curtains”. Quite a lot of people feel we should change the lyrics. Others say we should be more like the Norwegians, who go crazy with joy on their national holiday, forgetting perhaps that the Norwegians celebrate being liberated from Swedish oppression…
Balloons and streamers in the colours of the Swedish flag are more used for high school graduations which is the coming of age celebration in a young person´s life, and I bet more Swedes know the words to Studentsången (= the Student Song) than to the national anthem. The Student Song was composed by Prince Gustaf to words written by Herman Sätherberg, and it proved surprisingly difficult to find a good performance of it on youtube (the most outstanding was by a Norwegian choir and I just couldn´t post that after writing the above). This is from Walpurgis Night celebrations at Umeå university a few years ago. The students singing are wearing the traditional student hat, which in the old days (when people wouldn´t go out the door without wearing a hat) were worn every day by young men studying at university.
Sjung om studentens lyckliga dar / låtom oss fröjdas i ungdomens vår / än klappar hjärtat med friska slag / och den ljusnande framtid är vår / inga stormar än i våra sinnen bo / hoppet är vår vän och vi dess löften tro / när vi knyta förbund i den lund / där de härliga lagrarna gro / där de härliga lagrarna gro, hurra!
Sing about the student´s happy days / let us be joyful in the spring of youth / still our hearts have healthy beats / and the bright future is ours / no storms dwell in our minds / hope is our friend and we trust its promises / when we make our alliance in the grove / where the wonderful laurels grow / where the wonderful laurels grow, hurray! (my quick&dirty translation)