Tag Archives: history

Swedish National Day – “Celebrate, or not to celebrate, that is the question”

Today is a sunny day in Sweden. Why don’t go out and enjoy the sunlight while… celebrating the National Day? Yes, today, 6 June, is a working-free holiday here in Sweden. And the reason is that Swedes are going to be proud of their country and wave flags all around the street, chanting the national anthem (where you won’t hear either the word Sweden or Swedish), eating/drinking typical and traditional dishes/beverages, being cheerful all day long and happily ‘forgetting’ about the reality for some hours.

Wrong. Swedes actually do that, or almost everything said above, but not today. This will happen in some weeks, in the second half of June, when time for the most important and desired and awaited day for all Swedes will come: Midsummer.

So, what do Swedes do on 6 June, the National Day? Well, they are supposed to celebrate it, but how many do that? How many do feel to imitate their well-known Norwegian neighbours’ celebrations?

The Swedish National Day was established by the government only few decades ago, in 1983. And, to be precise, only a bit more than ten years ago it became a red day in the calendar. The need to create such a day stems from both the willing to give a sort of continuity with a traditional former celebration called “The day of the Swedish flag” (Svenska flaggans dag), and to match somehow the more famous and cherished Norwegian Constitution day honoured every 17 May.

The choice to celebrate the 6th of June as a National day may be related to the fact the in the very same day, back to 1523 AD, Gustav Vasa was elected king of Sweden – that indeed put an end to the union between Sweden and Denmark; moreover, in June 6, 1809 a new constitution was adopted. What happens in Sweden nowadays is that there are colorful processions of national pride joyfully accompanied by marching bands and important people giving speeches. For those of you who are not aware of it yet, Sweden is constitutional monarchy, so there are a king and a queen. They take an active part during the celebration: in Stockholm, leaving the Royal Palace, they reach the famous outdoor museum Skansen.

Anyway, going back to the main point: yes, it’s the National day then. But what do Swedes do!? They are known to be not so patriotic – you may normally see many national flags waving in the streets or outside their houses, in institutional places or even on public transports; however, celebrating their nation is not their favourite thing to do. Another reason may be associated to the fact that many could put on the same level patriotism and right-winger supporters. Last but not least: if you ask a Swede which day he/she is proud of and longing for, you would probably hear (as mentioned before) Midsummer.

Actually, according to a study conducted by the University of Gothenburg, in the last years there has been “a significant increase in interest in celebrating National Day. Participation in other holidays is stable.” (The Local). And a good reason to celebrate this day may come from people who become de facto Swedish citizens: most of immigrants and expats receive their certificate of citizenship on June 6 – the king and the mayors throughout the country welcome officially the new Swedes.

Celebrating or not, it’s holiday: happy national day, and grattis Sverige!


Sources: https://www.thelocal.se/20170605/why-more-swedes-are-celebrating-national-day; http://www.swedishfreak.com/holiday/swedens-national-day/; https://www.thelocal.se/20150605/why-dont-swedes-care-for-the-national-day; https://sweden.se/culture-traditions/national-day/

Pictures: Featured image (http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=2054&artikel=5882611); picture 2 (http://www.scandinavianperspectives.com/uncategorized/sweden-national-day-celebration-june-6th); picture 3 (http://shazzerspeak.com/2011/06/06/strange-swedish-national-day/).

Series “Lights, camera, action! – Brief history of the Swedish cinema” / Part 1: The outset

Some weeks ago I had the chance to write a post about the Göteborg Film Festival, meant for not only highlighting the main features of the event, but also as an expression of my passion regarding the cinematic world. I’ve decided to give more room to this passion, by combining it with my experience in Sweden; that’s why this piece is the first one of the series called “Lights, camera, action! – Brief history of the Swedish cinema”.

It’s been a while that I’ve wanted to get to know better the cinematic reality of this Scandinavian country. Of course I’ve heard about Ingmar Bergman – probably one of the most famous Swedish (and worldwide) filmmakers. What I ignored was that behind his name there is as well a huge legacy of filmmakers and actors that made Swedish cinema remarkably rich and well-known at an international level.

Greta Garbo, one of the first famous Swedish actresses, known worldwide. Source: www.cameralook.it

Over the course of the past two centuries, Sweden has gone through different phases of its history. As many countries between the end of the 19th and the outset of the 20th century, the overall economic and societal situation was mostly shaped by an agrarian perspective, strictly linked to the precepts of the Lutheran Protestantism. This was the context in which the first public projection took place, precisely in Malmö, in 1896. From that moment on, people working in the cinema industry would have played a fundamental role within the Swedish society.

Numa Wilhelm Peterson and Ernest Florman are the very first two names that we have to keep in mind when it comes to dealing with the dawn of the Swedish cinema. Both of them collaborated and gave birth to the first production, a collection of newsreels. But in 1897, Peterson, who was the owner of photographic supplier companies, produced “The Barber’s Shop in the Village”, made by Florman. Swedes were in front of the first-ever Swedish film drama. Other short films came up, among these the one called “Slagsmål i Gamla Stockholm (A Battle in Old Stockholm)”, a particular one because its aim was to recreate an old 17th century Stockholm setting; proper costumes were also used, by the way.

  Numa Peterson and Ernest Florman. Source: http://www.victorian-cinema.net

In less than ten years, a cinematic mania pervaded the entire country. Many towns started establishing their own cinemas. One of the outcomes was also the foundation of a film production company by a bookkeeper, Gustav Bjösrkman, and his boss Nils Hansson Nylander, in 1905. Starting being active from two years later, the AB Svensk Biografteatern was essential in giving the push to a new era of the Swedish cinema, renowned as “The golden age”.

Are you still there? I know, too many historical facts and names that you (probably) have never heard of before, but hey: this is how the fascinating process that led to Ingmar Bergman and other famous personalities began – and I hope I can convey that feeling to you, since along with the passion for cinema, I’m mixing the one regarding history, too. So, let’s not lose the thread, going towards the end of the first part of this series of pieces full of past memories, old cameras and black&white backgrounds.

Where were we? Yes, a new film production company was born. Apparently, they were missing one important member, one capable of managerial skills and creativity. Here came the moment of Charles Magnusson, another name to remember. Known for his ability to film important public events in Denmark and Sweden, he started building an image in the relative business. He owned a laboratory and some cinemas in Gothenburg, the city where he came from. In 1908, the choice of Svensk Biografteatern could not be other than signing Magnusson. That turned out to be a decisive moment for the new established industry.

Charles Magnusson. Source: Wikipedia

We’ll have the chance to talk a bit more about what Magnusson did in order to boost the film industry, and we’ll see that his management will prove to be extremely crucial to the development of what it was defined as the aforementioned “golden age” of the Swedish cinema.

Stay tuned for the second part of the series “Lights, camera, action!”. To be continued…

 


Featured image: “The Seventh Seal”, by Ingmar Bergman. Source: http://www.originalprop.com/blog/2009/09/28/chess-pieces-from-ingmar-bergmans-the-seventh-seal-sold-by-bukowskis-in-sweden-for-144000-today-2/

Main sources: http://www.academia.edu/5943663/A_short_history_of_Swedish_cinema, https://swedishfilmshollywoodremakes.wordpress.com/further-readings-2/sweden/swedish-cinema-the-silent-era/

Discovering Järntorget: Welcome to the Iron Square of Gothenburg

Gothenburg is not a small city and, as I’ve been here for only two months, I still have to explore the city properly. However, this doesn’t mean that so far I haven’t seen some good spots or venues or nice areas which are worth visiting. Indeed, one of my favourite streets is Andra Långgatan, few steps away from the square Järntorget, in Haga, one of the (oldest) city districts.

I’d like to say few words about Järntorget, since I find it a nice square and, personally, it was one of the first spots that gave me a good impression of the city when I moved here.

As far as I’ve heard of and I’ve read about, Gothenburg was mainly a city where merchants, dealers and sailors used to live or just to trade and fulfil their activities. The city has faced an almost radical change between the end of 19th century and the beginning of 20th century, and we can say that Järntorget was a symbol of this change. Järntorget means literally the Iron Square. It represents the place where the iron was brought from the neighbouring province Värmland: in the middle of the square stood a scale which served to weigh the iron. Today, the scale is not there anymore, but you can see a wonderful fountain known as The Five Continents (De fem världsdelarna).

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The shift from a trading-oriented city to an industrial-oriented was significant and this affected not only practical activities, but the society itself as well. Organizations and unions of workers like the Gothenburg Workers’ Association (Arbetarföreningen) and the Gothenburg Arbetarkommun was founded. They established their premises in Järntorget and, over the course of the next decades, they contributed to enrich the area by building assembly halls, theatre, a Folkets Hus (People’s House), and tried to help people in order to improve their living conditions. That wasn’t an easy task, especially in hard times like those of the World Wars.

Järntorget has been a symbol of demonstrations, the last biggest one was held in 2001 during the EU summit. Here you can find out more about the history of this important square, if you are interested in!

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Today, the square is one of the main hubs in Gothenburg, regarding public transportation and, especially, nightlife and culture. If you go there, you have a huge choice of things to do. This link is a good way to know more about the venues and what the surroundings have to offer.

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Between those two buildings in the background, you can find the famous street Andra Långgatan

So, all you can do is to go there, have a look around, and start wandering: have fun and enjoy it!

Welcome to Järntorget, Gothenburg!