If you haven’t discovered how thrilling it is to dig into a plate of delicious crayfish, you haven’t experienced a crayfish party, Swedish style. This summertime celebration of the freshwater crustacean isn’t just about its savory taste; for Swedes, it’s a magical time to come together and toast the season while enjoying the sea’s bounty, friends and family, and the gorgeous natural setting that is Sweden.
The country’s Midsummer holiday, with its floral garlands and maypoles, may be better known. But the crayfish parties, or kräftskiva
, that follow later in the summer are also a highlight. The typical timing for these parties, starting in August and continuing into September, is based on what was long the start of the season for catching this smaller cousin of the lobster. These days, it’s possible to buy crayfish year-round, but like many of the parties’ rituals, revelers fondly continue the traditions, even if the original reasons for them no longer exist.
Among other features of a crayfish party are snapsvisor
songs—humorous short verses that typically describe the singer’s fondness for snaps (similar to Scandinavian Aquavit), the spirits consumed with the crayfish. Fanciful colors are everywhere you turn—on the funny conical hats and bibs worn by partygoers as well as on the tablecloth and plates. Cheerful hues also adorn the paper lanterns hung around the table, perhaps decorated with a smiling full moon and lit with candles that help illuminate darker August nights. Making slurping noises as you consume your crayfish is encouraged, and you can expect everyone to break out into song. (Hum along if you don’t know the words!) After the dining on the delicious crayfish, the group may engage in fun party games; then it’s time to wind down with a relaxing swim, since lakes are normally warm in late summer.
Crayfish parties take place throughout Sweden, though this itinerary focuses on the northern regions of Skåne and Småland—areas dotted with pristine lakes, where crayfish flourish. Many of the crayfish in Sweden’s markets are shipped from the United States (the Swedish consume more crayfish than they can produce), but the experience of catching your own, in Sweden, and eating them when they couldn’t be any fresher may elevate a crayfish party to the culinary high point of your trip.
This year, Visit Sweden is hosting a virtual celebration of Midsummer with videos from events in Skåne, Stockholm, Dalarna, and other parts of the country on its Facebook page. But since a crayfish party is best experienced in person, you can start thinking now about when to go celebrate in Sweden.