Swedish Language Blog

Crayfish Parties Posted by on Aug 25, 2008 in Culture

Arsh asked a while back about the traditional Swedish crayfish party and wanted to know if I participated in one this year. And I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t eat crayfish. No particular reason, I just don’t like the buggers. And I’m not fond of paper hats, either. Most of my friends know about it and so the invitations to the seasonal debauchery sessions known as “kräftskiva” normally pass me by. Except last year. My new friend caught me unaware with an invite to her backyard crayfish munching fest. She caught me so unaware in fact, that I said “yes”.

But first things first. What’s a crayfish party? As the name indicates, it’s a party where you eat mostly crayfish and drink copious amounts of alcohol. Some people even skip the crayfish altogether and get straight to drinking. The month of August, during which back in the olden days crayfish were traditionally harvested, is the customary time for this extravaganza.

In Swedish:

  • kräftskiva (def. kräftskivan, plural: -skivor, pl. def: -skivorna) – fest där man äter kräftor = a party where one eats crayfish
  • kräfta (def. kräftan, plural: kräftor, pl. def: kräftorna) = crayfish

These days most of the crayfish consumed in Sweden are imported, and it doesn’t really matter what time of the year they’re harvested. But tradition is a sacred thing and needs to be observed.

So last year, I found myself sitting in a countryside backyard surrounded by about a dozen of very solemn people dressed in funny bibs and silly paper hats. Yes, paper hats are traditional, too. Don’t ask me why. Moon-face lanterns were strung between the trees and massive amounts of snaps were ready.

My friend decided to forsake the typical Swedish smörgåsbord and stuck to the basics: only crayfish, bread and booze were to be served, though not necessarily in that order. But I forgive her – she’s finlandssvenska after all.

So how was the party? Apparently, it was a smashing success – the next day nobody remembered anything and they couldn’t utter a word – their throats were too coarse and sore from singing so loud all night long.

Photos by @rild and Joakim

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  1. Arsh Jami:

    Hej Anna! Thank so much for sharing another of your personal Swedish custom experience (you did not say if you ate the red buggers too, or just had snaps?!!!).
    Would you say that Sweden is a country where even with all the modernization and industrialization, they religiously celebrate these deep rooted customs and traditions, even the younger generation?
    Sincere thanks for your time to continue our education in Swedish culture and traditions!

    Med vänliga hälsningar,

  2. David (Sydney):

    G/day Anna, I thought you must have come down under as the crayfish party sounds like what happens here, the only difference is that when cray fish get harvested which can be every Sunday when there on, a booze up and feast just happens, I have been on boats where the feast as started before we have docked, our crayfish don’t have nippers and are abit bigger, Keep up the good work I love reading your Blog ! ! Kind Regards David (Sydney)

  3. Anna:

    As always you are spot on with your observations. I have a couple of theories why these deep rooted customs and traditions are so religiously preserved, and I think it will make for a fun future blog post. 😉

    Hi David!
    Sydney you say, huh? I might be visiting your part of the world soon (or soonish). Then I’ll need to observe your crayfish parties, take notes and compare! And of course blog about it! LOL! 🙂

  4. Matt Griffith:

    Anyone know where i can find these paper lanterns. I need them despirately.