Singer or not, there are occasions when everyone in Sweden makes his or her voice heard singing. Snaps, known also as schnapps, is a very important part of social gatherings in Sweden, as is the singing that usually accompanies the snaps. The singing of snaps songs and other songs at a party (often over dinner) is fun and keeps you focused. The singing requires good manners.

The singing of snaps songs and other songs at a party (which in Sweden often equals a dinner party) is fun and keeps you focused. The singing is equal to and fosters good manners. There is a Swedish song called ”Dåne liksom åskan bröder” in which there is a line saying “Sången ädla känslor föder” (From singing comes noble feelings). That’s exactly what happens when you sing snaps songs! The singing has a magic effect on Swedish dinner parties.


When it comes to the toasting it is not necessary to drink a lot—or even have snaps in your glass. Many people do the toast with an alcohol-free beverage in their glass. But the singing is important. The unwritten rule is that you don’t drink until you have executed a snaps song first. This is especially important when the first snaps is poured into your glass. You do not even touch the glass until the first song has been sung! (The importance of the snaps song to sobriety is, to make this clear, a matter open to discussion.)

There's needless to say a name for every snaps you drink at a party. That’s an old tradition in Sweden—its origin is from the universities. “Helan” (#1), “Halvan” (#2) and “Tersen” (#3) are the most well known. Even in Svenska Akademins Ordlista (The Swedish Academy’s Wordlist) you will find that “Ters” means “Tredje supen” (The third snaps).
The origin of “Helan” and “Halvan” is from a song manuscript from 1760. The smallest measure for liquids by then was “halvjumfru” (half maid), equal to 4.1 cl (about 1.4 fluid ounces).

Here's Sweden's most popular song:
The song and its transliteration is from the Nordstjernan book The very best of Swedish Schnapps Songs - Göran Rygert's popular compilation of some of the most common Swedish schnapps songs. 64 pages, covering 130 songs, 1/3 of the songs in English, a handful of recipes and briefs on traditions.

Helan går
Melody: Helan går

Helan går,
sjung hopp, faderallan lallan lej.
Helan går,
sjung hopp, faderallan lej.
Och den som inte helan tar,
han heller inte halvan får.
Helan går!
Sjung hopp, faderallan lej!

Phonetic transliteration:
Hal and Gore,
shun hop, father Alan Lalan ley
Hal and Gore,
shun hop, father Alan ley.
Oh handsome in the hell and tar
an’ Hal are in the half and four.
Hal and Gore!
Shun hop, father Alan ley!

Now for the First!
Sing hop, faderallan lallan ley.
Now for the First,
sing hop, faderallan ley.
And those who won’t the First One take
they also Number Two forsake.
Now for the First!
Sing hop, faderallan ley!