Day 297 — Over already?

I have heard that spring can sometimes be short here in the north, but this is getting ridiculous. Yesterday was a beautiful spring day. Today was as beautiful a summer day as one ever gets here. Incredible. 75 F., nice breeze that calmed to nothing at dinner time, not a cloud all day long. Unbelievable. Summer is here, it seems. Lots of projects being done in the neighborhood: new greenhouse being built, new garage built and being painted, cleaning out garages, water pumps broken out of storage. And Mother Nature is exhaling. Blossoms are showing up and leaves seem to be literally shooting out of branches.

And lots and lots of birds. This little guy has pecked on our window demanding food. We obey.

May Day in Sweden and many other countries is a national holiday with much political significance here in Sweden. Like Walpurgis Eve, May Day originated in pre-Christian pagan times, when the first day of May signified the beginning of summer, which explains now why the absolute biggest day of the year in Sweden is called Midsummer, even though it occurs on the first Friday after the Summer solstice. Believe me, you will be hearing a lot more about Midsummer. It is national freak out day here.

Back to May Day, however, which is also International Workers Day. On this day in Sweden and many other countries, labor unions and affiliated left wing political groups pump themselves up and celebrate the labor movement. In the U.S., I came to think of May Day as the day we would see pictures of tanks and missiles being paraded on Red Square so it always had a negative connotation for me. Today, following on the festive mood of Walpurgis Eve, it was Swedes back to being Swedes, that is, businesslike, if not serious.

The little socialists in the crowd had a bouncy house and merry-go-round.

This is basically a holiday for the Social Democrats. Their flags were everywhere on the square.

That is the Social Democrats symbol, a red rose. I think all the political parties in Sweden, the main ones at least, all have flowers as their symbol, quite a contrast from the elephant and donkey of U.S. political symbology.

This was something I have not seen before. The guy in the center has a round placard that has a cartoon on it with word balloons that makes some political point. I saw several of these and I wish I understood them because I like cartoons.

Then at the other end of the square I noticed a small tent with a Swedish flag. Hmmmm, I wondered as I moseyed over, could these be . . .?

Yep. In a display of chutzpah the Sweden Democrats had a tent and were passing out literature to anyone who came by. They were not doing a lot of business on a day that has been the property of the left wing in Sweden since 1890. There were about a half dozen men in the tent, mostly dressed in plaid shirts, jeans and boots. The looked like Sweden’s version of rednecks. I went up and talked to the guy in the first photo above in the blue shirt and got some literature from him. We chatted a bit and he asked where I was from. Then, irony of ironies, this guy, Oleg, told me he was from the Ukraine. The Sweden Democrats are basically the furthest right wing party in the land. Even the right wing Moderate Party wants nothing to do with them. They basically want to clamp down the borders and/or evict immigrants. And here I am talking to a Russian immigrant. Their slogan is “Security and Tradition,” meaning “lock the doors and turn back the calendar.” The have some representation in the government, so they must have some people listening to them. But not on May Day.

The band got things rolling.

Then the flag bearers and marchers got themselves organized.

And off they went.

The number of marchers and people watching were about the same size as were at the Walpurgis Eve bonfire last night, around 5,000, it seemed to me. I saw on the news that there were 15,000 in Gothenberg to hear the leader of the Social Democrats speak.

The busses waited politely as the marchers crossed the street. The parade wound through town and then came back to the square for some speeches.

 There are various occupations occurring all over the U.S. and the world today as part of a general strike, but here in Sweden it was business as usual. They have been doing this for more than 100 years. Very different from Labor Day in the U.S., which is mostly lip service from the politicians and one last barbecue before school starts in the fall. In Sweden, you mess with the unions at your peril.



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