Welcome to Egyptology!

Middle Kingdom funerary boat at the Museum Gustavianum in Uppsala

In the two years since my last post I’ve retired from Radio Sweden (after 40 years), and gone back to school to earn a B.A. in Egyptology.

Uppsala University is the only school in Sweden to offer Egyptology, so over a two year period I commuted 2-4 days a week, around two hours door to door. It turns out that it isn’t unusual for persioners to enroll at Swedish universities, probably because studies are tutition-free. In my first semester, which consisted of introductory courses in Egyptian history, religion, art, and literature, there were 15-20 students, of which around a quarter were pensioners like me.

Waterloo More Important Than Midsummer?

Midsummer in Sigtuns

Midsummer in Sigtuna

Midsummer is the most important holiday in Sweden and Denmark, after Christmas. Anyone who has experienced the darkness of the Scandinavian Winter can appreciate the desire to celebrate the light of Summer.

Yet every year, it seems, the European Union holds a summit at Midsummer. Yet there’s never such a meeting on July 14. It seems France’s Bastille Day is held in higher esteem than Scandinavia’s big day.

Amazing Changes in France

Yesterday and today have come news that two of the things I thought were the worst or weirdest about France are being changed, the stores being closed on Sundays, and the schools being closed on Wednesdays.

Yesterday France24 reported, on the first day of the new school year, that for the first time French children will be going to school five days a week. Until now they got to stay home on Wednesdays, apparently because of a 19th century idea they were then supposed to study their catechisms, Sunday School on Wednesdays.

The world’s least interesting national day

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National Day 2011 at MillesgÄrden, Lidingö,

Today is Sweden’s National Day, and practically no one cares.

Under the headline “National Day, a bluff clothed in Blue and Yellow”, the noted historian Dick Harrison tells the newspaper “Svenska Dagbladet” today that what was originally Swedish Flag Day had its origin with the founder of Skansen, Artur Hazelius, in the 1890’s. Apparently he held a number of Flag Days, but they all got rained out. According to Harrison, it rained least on June 6, so Hazelius stuck with that date.

Afterwards, people looked for historical events on June 6, and discovered that Gustaf Vasa was crowned King of Sweden on that date (under the Julian Calendar) in 1523, and a new Swedish Constitution was signed (not adopted) on June 6, 1809. Harrison says these events were linked to the day after the fact.

The day didn’t become a public holiday until 2005, replacing Pentacost Monday, and that was only because industry realized Pentacost Monday happens every year, but two years out of seven June 6 falls on a weekend. Unlike US, where the following Monday is a holiday in such cases, Swedes lose out if a holiday is on a weekend. So industry realized they could get more work out of people with June 6, and successfully lobbied for the change.

“Svenska Dagbladet” points out that most Swedes feel no connection to the day, and the true national day of Sweden is Midsummer. That’s when everyone is out, dancing around Maypoles, and picnicking together.

In recent years one custom has been attached to the national day. Every year on June 6 city halls across the country hold ceremonies to honor those who became Swedish citizens during the previous calendar year. I attended such a ceremony in 2011, and it was fun. But for most Swedes June 6 has virtually no significance.