Birthdays are no small occasion in Sweden, warranting gifts and traditional songs and treats presented with Scandinavian flair. An ornate cake is usually at the heart of the celebration, which may send you into a "sockerchock," or sugar coma, if you overindulge. As in many cultures, Swedes typically say happy birthday, or "grattis pa fodelsedagen."
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One of Sweden's sweetest birthday traditions is reserved primarily for kids. Family members wake up early on the child's birthday and surprise them by bringing them breakfast in bed, which may include a piece of birthday cake. A typical Swedish breakfast may include classics such as a smorgas, or an open-faced sandwich, topped with butter, cheese, veggies or deli cold cuts, or crisp bread with fish paste. Some families allow their children to open their presents in bed as well. Adults are expected to plan their own birthday celebration if they wish to have one; surprise parties are not the norm, according to Something Swedish.
Princess cake is a traditional birthday cake that rose in prominence in the 1930s. The dome-shaped cake features a sponge base topped with vanilla cream and whipped cream and coated with a smooth layer of green marzipan, often accented by a pink marzipan rose. In the Skane region of the country, some Swedes may celebrate birthdays with spattekaka, an old-fashioned cake made with potato flour that is painstakingly baked on a rotating cone over an open fire.
The Swedish happy birthday song is called "ja, ma du leva," or "yes, may you live." According to Scandinavius, the song has eight verses that repeat the phrases, "ja, ma du (han,hon,dom) leva," which means "yes, he/she/they will live," and "uti hundrade ar," for a hundred years. The song concludes with four hearty huzzahs. Family members often sing the birthday song when bringing the child her birthday breakfast in bed.
As in many places in the world, beautifully wrapped gifts in Sweden are embellished with a colorful string or bow, and the gift recipient opens gifts in front of the gift-giver. While the content of the gift naturally varies, depending on the individual, Cloud 9 Living notes that liquor is usually a good choice for adults because of its high price in Sweden. Flowers such as chrysanthemums or white lilies, however, are inappropriate, as they are common funeral flowers. Birthday party decor often includes the Swedish flag and the country colors, which are blue and golden-yellow.
- Something Swedish: My First Birthday in Sweden –- Hurrah Hurrah Hurrah Hurrah
- Visit Sweden: Cakes and Tradition
- Cloud 9 Living: Swedish Birthdays Take the Cake
- Scandinavius: Swedish Songs
- Euro Cheapo: Stockholm: What’s a Typical Swedish Breakfast?
- 1 World Global Gifts: International Gift Giving Etiquette -- Sweden