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Alla hjärtans dag Posted by on Feb 15, 2009 in Culture

That’s what Valentine’s Day is called in Sweden.

  • alla – all
  • hjärta (def. hjärtat, pl. hjärtan, def. pl. hjärtana) – heart
  • dag – day

You’d know immediately that something is up by all the chocolate hearts at the supermarkets. And for those on a strict budget there are boxes of red geléhjärtan (as Mats has pointed out – even though some people and even companies write this word separately as “gelé hjärtan” – that is not correct) on sale, too.

Valentine’s Day came to Sweden sometime in the mid 60s promoted heavily by commercial interests. Of course, as elsewhere in the world, retailers saw it as yet another opportunity to sell more stuff. And what a better excuse than to guilt those buying that stuff and tell them it’s all for love, right? Anyway, with varying degrees of success it kind of seemed to work.

But how do average people on the street feel about Valentine’s Day?
I thought that an informal poll was in order.

I went downtown and in front of a local chocolate store began to ask questions about whether or not Valentine’s Day is seriously celebrated in Sweden.

These were the answers:

  • – foreign men with foreign wives (from countries where Valentine’s Day is a long-standing tradition) – “Yes, of course we celebrate it.”
  • – foreign men with Swedish wives – “I didn’t marry a Swede to bother with Valentine’s day. If I needed yet another excuse to be forced to buy gifts, I’d stick with my own kind.”
  • – Swedish men with foreign spouses – “Of course we celebrate it – I’d be sleeping outside in minus 10 degrees C if I didn’t bring her a gift.”
  • – Swedish men with Swedish wives – if the wife was within earshot – “Yes, I guess we celebrate it.” If the wife was nowhere to be seen – “I think I do enough already as it is, what more could she want?”
  • – women, both foreign and Swedish – “I hope he’ll do something special for me tonight.”

So there you have it – straight from the mouths of the masses.

As for me, my love promised to fix my computer. And since I missed posting on Valentine’s Day proper, you can easily guess that it ended with promises. Tomorrow my laptop is going to see a handsome computer doctor.

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  1. Mats:

    Writing “gelé hjärtan” is never correct, it’s either “geléhjärtan”, or if you want to separate them “gelé-hjärtan” (it looks like something out of Bamse like that, though).

  2. Lelia:

    Hej Anna,

    Great post. It is great that you did a poll and also great that people were willing to give their opinions. Wow…a handsome computer doctor. I wish we had such ones here. That was kind of your beloved to promise to fix your laptop. Your blog is a joy to visit. Please keep up the great work.


  3. David:

    I’m aggrieved. I can’t stay silent on this one. I have to say something. Why? Because I’m a ‘foreign man’ (English) with a Swedish wife.

    Happily married for nearly fourteen years now and living here in Sweden for nearly eight of those years that very negative statement in today’s blog has to be challenged and exposed for what it is. And what is it? Certainly not representative of why we ‘foreign men’ chose to marry Swedish partners.

    If a man needs an excuse to be ‘forced’ to buy gifts for his wife then perhaps he should reconsider why he is married in the first place.

    I’m sure that particular man’s point of view represents the minority. It’s just a shame he was the one who turned up outside your local chocolate shop while you were conducting your informal poll.

    Please allow me to set the record straight. Not all ‘foreign men with Swedish wives’ think Valentine’s Day is something we can’t be ‘bothered’ with. On the contrary. Some of us think it’s an opportunity to show our appreciation of some of the most beautiful women on this planet. Whether we buy them presents or not is not what it’s about. I think our guy has missed the point. Or has he, what was he doing outside the chocolate shop anyway?

    Valentine’s Day is and always will be a special day for Katarina and myself. It’s the day I proposed to her. True, our story is a little unusual but only because I decided to make it so.

    The story, “Valentines Day, Valentine’s Day – A Personal Story”, is too long to relate here but is available to be read on our Web site. I wrote it over a year ago and it’s been published on several of the article directory sites. To read the story without lots of advertisements and Google ads etc., please visit our Web site. The page can be found at:


    I’m sure you will find it interesting. If nothing else it clearly shows how we English speakers get totally mixed up when first learning the Swedish language. I proposed to Katarina in public, on stage and in her own language. Well, I thought I was using her own language. Evidently it was good enough as she did understand what I said. Well, being down on one knee at the same time was probably a give away but never-the-less I made the effort. It’s all there in the story. Please visit ….


    Incidentally Anna you often refer to your location as being in the northern region of Sweden. Katarina and I live in Härnösand so I suspect we could very well be ‘grannar’.

    Thank you for your blog, I enjoy it enormously. Even now after nearly eight years I’m still struggling with the Swedish language and I do actually find many of your posts extremely helpful.

    Again, many thanks and I hope you don’t mind this particular ‘foreign man with a Swedish wife’ demonstrating that some of us are immensely grateful that we got the opportunity to marry a Swedish partner. Valentine’s Day does not have to be considered yet another commercial exploitation day. It’s what you chose to make of it.

  4. David from Oregon:

    Ah yes, guys just give and give and give. My concept of Swedish gender equality has been shattered.

  5. Luke (Sydney):

    hummm…it’s played with a bit of secrecy here downunder, espicially in the office. Not much fun this year as it’s on a saturday.

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