Travel insights from Jenna Buege, associate editor of The Compass

Your Monthly Guide to Scandinavian Events and Traditions

Do you dream of partying like a Viking? These Scandinavian events, festivals and traditions have got you covered. Here’s a monthly guide to the best celebrations in the region.


  • Bjorkliden Aurora Festival – Allow the beauty of the Northern Lights to enchant you at Sweden’s Bjorkliden Aurora Festival each January. The celebration typically takes place over the course of five days and focuses on teaching visitors about the source, science and forecasting of the Aurora. The festival is the definition of winter fun where travelers learn how to perfectly capture the lights on film before embarking on an adventure to nearby Abisko National Park or trying their hand at dogsledding and snowmobile rides.


  • Food and Fun – Described as a “culinary circus,” Food and Fun is hosted in Iceland’s capital city Reykjavik each spring. Join in on the excitement as top chefs from around the world cook side-by-side with Reykjavik’s best restaurants to prepare a sensational menu that showcases only the freshest and best Icelandic ingredients.


  • Valborg – Swedes celebrate Valborg, aka Walpurgis, each year on April 30 to say goodbye to harsh winter days in exchange for sunny summer afternoons. A tradition with German roots, Valborg was introduced to Sweden in the Middle Ages and acted as a holiday to honor Saint Walpurga. Today, Valborg has lost its religious significance and is instead a time to light large bonfires, sing spring-themed songs, enjoy fanciful fireworks and party all night long.


  • Click Festival – An event that celebrates the merging of art and science, Denmark’s Click Festival is like nothing you’ve experienced before. The displays are different each year, but in the past visitors have enjoyed performances from musicians like Phillip Glass, observed Laurie Anderson’s custom-made visual algorithms, looked on as actors conducted 4D performances and much more.


  • Midsummer – A time for herring, potatoes, strawberries, schnapps and sunshine, Swedes like to welcome summer with a bang with Midsummer, an annual event that celebrates the summer solstice. Despite the Catholic Church’s best effort to convert the holiday into a Christian affair, pagan traditions still run strong as attendees light massive outdoor bonfires, dance around the maypole and weave crowns made of flowers.
  • Sweden’s National Day – National Day is celebrated in Sweden each year on June 6 in honor of two significant events: the election of Gustav Vasa as king in 1523 and the adoption of a new constitution in June of 1809. Today, National Day is a public holiday and Swedes proudly support their heritage as they wave tiny flags and attend Skansen’s traditional National Day festival with dancing, music and more.


  • Helsinki Festival – Finland’s largest arts festival, the Helsinki Festival is a city-wide event that runs for three weeks straight each August. With activities ranging from live music, dance lessons, theatre performances, children’s entertainment and urban fun, there’s sure to be something for everyone. The festival always ends on a high note with the celebration of its famous “Night of the Arts,” a night where museums, bookshops and theaters open their doors to dancers, singers and philosophers.


  • Kräftskiva (Crayfish Season) – Swedes love crayfish so much that they’ve deemed August through September as crayfish season. A time to gather with your closest friends and family, crayfish season kicks off on the first Wednesday of August and runs through September as residents all over the country flock to lakeside destinations and deck their tables with bright lanterns as they wear colorful bibs and feast on plates full of the brightly colored crustacean.


  • Halloween/All Saints’ Day – Unlike the U.S., Halloween was not traditionally celebrated in Scandinavia until the early 1990s. However, after seeing how much fun people around the world were having with the modernized ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, Scandinavian countries began to follow suit for the candies and an excuse to party during those seemingly endless winter nights. In addition to Halloween, some regions celebrate All Saints’ Day on the first Sunday of November as a way to honor loved ones who passed away during the year by placing a candle on their grave.


  • Christmas – As the homeland of Santa Claus, Nordic countries think Christmas is a pretty big deal. Expect an abundance of hearty foods, extravagant displays of colorful twinkling lights and plenty of delicious mulled wine to keep you nice and toasty in the brisk temperatures.

    People in Iceland celebrate Jola (aka Christmas) with elaborate décor, festive parties and gingerbread biscuits as they await the Christmas Cat (Jolakoetturinn), a mythical feline said to devour anyone who isn’t gifted new clothes.

    Those in Norway, Sweden and Denmark refer to the holiday as “Jul” and kickoff the holiday with the celebration of St Lucia Day where children sing hymns dressed all in white. Scandinavians really lean into the warmth of the season with baked goods, scented candles and hot beverages. So much so that they even have a word for the feeling, “fika” which translates to “winter cozy.”

    And then of course there’s Finland, home to Rovaniemi, a town in the Arctic Circle that claims the title of Santa’s hometown where people of all ages can meet the big guy himself.

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J. Soap | 11/26/19 - 10:18 PM

LOTS of missing things on this Scandinavian "list"

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VAX VacationAccess | 11/27/19 - 08:14 AM

Thanks for the comment, which additional festivals and traditions would you like to see on the list?

- VAX VacationAccess

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