With only a week or so left here in Stockholm, I wanted to reflect back on an experience that I had in the first month with my residential community. Thinking back, I feel like this is the moment that really solidified the community that I am living in and fostered the wonderful and supportive group of people that I got the pleasure of living with this whole semester.
Celebrated at the tail end of August, the Crayfish Party is a Swedish celebration that has exceeded all my expectations. Nestled between Midsummers and Christmas, Crayfish Party, or in Swedish kräftskiva, is celebrated with friends and family as a way to say goodbye to the summer months and head into the autumn season.
Historically, the Crayfish was a commodity that was only available as a delicacy in the late summer due to laws on fishing on the Swedish shores during that time (1). Even farther back in the 16th century, Crayfish were farmed in King Erik XIV’s moat at Kalmar Castle, and therefore the native Swedish crayfish were aptly named noble crayfish. The actual party associated with crayfish, however, didn’t come until well into the 1930s, where the traditions within in the party first started becoming the celebration it is today. Now, crayfish is available year round but in keeping with tradition, continues to be celebrated at the end of summer.
I would say that the Crayfish Party is reminiscent of if Thanksgiving was celebrated like a Fourth of July backyard barbecue. I also know that in the South, Crawfish parties are also celebrated (but I have no experience with those). But while the celebration holds many shared characteristics as some American parties back at home, it is the plentiful Swedish traditions that make the party all the more interesting, fun, and unique.
I was lucky enough to learn more about this tradition through personal experience and it’s something that has stuck with me since. As it was at the end of August, it was one my first exposures to the many traditions of Swedish culture, and I would say that it gave me a deeper understanding in the way that Swedes live their lives.
As a residential community, we did all the traditions necessary to pull off a traditional Crayfish Party. We ate mountains of Crayfish, wore silly party hats, ate plenty of bread, decorated with fun lanterns, ate a lot of cheese, drank some celebratory snaps, and our SRA taught us a few rousing verses of Swedish drinking songs (specifically Helan Går).
It would have served me well to know that the crayfish won’t actually get you full. You have to go in with some food already tucked into your belly because it takes all of five minutes to get out a small chunk of meat out of the shell. But that’s another thing that amazed me. A crayfish party celebrates friendships, family, communicating with one another and just the phenomenon of being present with one another and not just gathering and feasting on a mountain load of crayfish. That to me was the most Swedish thing of all. Just like the Fika, the Crayfish Party encourages party goers to have fun and really be in the moment, which is really special.
The Crayfish party absolutely helped with bonding at the beginning of the year, and I’ve had the best time living with my Sollentuna family for the past four months. Please don’t make me leave!!