Spring in Sweden brings a succession of holidays starting with Easter, moving on to Valborgsmässoafton, and this week’s Kristi himmelsfärdsdag, or Ascension Day which is 40 days after Easter when Jesus ascended into heaven. In Sweden it has a strong connection to nature and signals the hope of warmer weather.
Kristi himmelsfärdsdag (KREE-stee HIHM-muhls-FEHRDS-dahg) always falls on a Thursday and is a red day (i.e. an official holiday). The following Friday is a “klämdag,” a day that falls between two days off, and many people take it off to make for a 4-day weekend. In southern and central Sweden it was said that the fish wouldn’t bite before Kristi himmelsfärdsdag. It naturally become known as “förste metaredan,” or the first angling day, and marks the beginning of the fishing season. Fishing on this day was important because your initial luck at a catch would determine your luck for the entire season.
Religiously, Kristi himmelsfärdsdag is often celebrated with a gökotta which is a dawn, picnic church service to hear the first birds sing. In reality that would be pretty early since the birds outside my window start singing around 4am. In searching around the web, the earliest service I found was at 7:30am.
This particular Thursday is not lacking for additional associations. It has also been known as ”vitärmadan” or ”barärmadan” meaning “white” or “bare arm day” since this day signaled a change to cotton summer clothes although today was so cold I was grateful to still have my winter coat close at hand. But there is no doubt that the Swedish strawberries and Midsommar are around the corner. So I won’t lose my hope for warmer weather and will enjoy the birds singing tomorrow morning, albeit sans picnic.