Bringing familiar holidays from around the world to Sweden

​This is how international students including myself found new ways to celebrate familiar holidays that are not celebrated in Sweden.

Swedes looove their holidays. Among the ones that many of us are familiar with, like Christmas or Valentine’s Day, there are many Swedish holidays like Midsummer, and the ones that focus on foods like Waffle Day or Semla Day. There are some holidays though, which aren’t celebrated widely in Sweden that I am used to celebrating in the US. Something that I didn’t consider before coming here was how or whether I could still celebrate them in Sweden.

Halloween was the first major holiday that happened after moving to Gothenburg. It is one of my favorite holidays, and it was very strange to see absolutely no decorations for it anywhere. I didn’t have any Halloween movie nights with friends (Hocus Pocus anyone?), or even watch the classic It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown special, and I was a bit bummed out about the possibility of the holiday coming and going without doing anything. 

Thankfully, friends from Chalmers and I decided not to let this happen! We got pumpkins from the grocery store and carved them into jack-o’-lanterns, and friends of mine decided to have a Halloween party. The best part of Halloween (in my opinion) is figuring out your costume. It can be whatever you want, some people go for scary things, others pop culture and everything in between. Some of my favorites from over the years have been Pippi Longstocking and the Statue of Liberty. My friends and I decided to go to the best place for finding costumes, a secondhand store. We had no set ideas coming into our search until we found a great vest that led us to decide to be the characters from Aladdin. Building on that, we found things to create costumes for Aladdin, Jasmine, Genie, and even the Magic Carpet. 

Were we the only ones dressed up at the party? Yes. But it didn’t matter, we had a great time!
The second big holiday that I celebrated in Sweden was American Thanksgiving. Though the roots of this holiday are actually quite terrible, today it is a time to come together with friends and family and reflect on things you are thankful for. It is generally celebrated by getting together with extended family and eating a dinner of foods like turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, pumpkin pie, etc. A recent development of this holiday is the concept of Friendsgiving, which is basically a Thanksgiving dinner but with friends instead of family. An American friend and I decided that we wanted to hold our own Friendsgiving. We invited classmates to a potluck dinner, where we made some of the more traditional dishes and each person brought their own to share. We even projected the parade that is played every Thanksgiving morning in the US. It was so fun! 
Some of the other Chalmers International Student ambassadors have also celebrated holidays from home. 

Jenny celebrated Chinese New Year while in Sweden. She said, “I celebrated by gathering with my best friends and having hotpots while watching Spring Festival Gala. Though it’s not possible to receive a physical red packet, my parents still send me through WeChat. We also send red packet to our friends for wishing them a happy new year.” 

Juan was able to celebrate Mexican Independence Day with other Mexicans in Gothenburg, “We had a party in one of the student housings here in Gothenburg where we did the famous "Grito de independencia". Miguel Hidalgo started the independence movement ringing the bells of the church where he was the priest and doing the famous "Grito". It's tradition to do the same in front of every Government building at 23:00 on September 15th each year. However, we did our own version during the party.” 

It has been great to find ways to celebrate familiar holidays here in Sweden. It makes one feel connected to home while in this new setting. It’s nice to share my own traditions with friends and to learn about theirs as well. After spending Christmas here, and Easter is coming this weekend, I’m looking forward to experiencing more holidays the Swedish way! 

Author: Amanda​

Page manager Published: Thu 09 Apr 2020.