This year’s celebration took place on a perfect summer Sunday: early June weather as we remember it from childhood back in the old country. Only the fragrance from lilac and honeysuckle bushes was missing. Instead proud palm trees cast shadows on the church façade and the flags were whipping in the sea breeze.
Every seat was taken as mass began and Oskar Johnsson, the outgoing priest assistant, received a tearful thank you. He will be sorely missed by young and old alike, charming as he is.
The familiar but now distant feeling of anticipation ahead of an endless summer vacation was brought back by cherished summer psalms sung throughout mass. Inger Pearson, assistant deacon, read the prayer loud and clear. Staffan Simonsson’s sermon focused on faith. “Faith is not about having the right belief; it’s more about relationships, love, closeness and trust,” he said. This knowledge is closer to a child’s perspective and understanding of God. Belief is about confidence in something larger than us, by many viewed as a mystery. Spirit means wind, air or oxygen in Greek. Without air no life, without God no life. This presence is a gift to us often felt in nature — maybe more than at church. In closing Simonsson shared his disappointment over the fact that there was no christening taking place, an otherwise nice addition to a happy day like this.
Mass was followed by a speech by Nina Ersman, Consul General of Sweden. She reminded us that this day is not only the Swedish National Day (a very young holiday called the Swedish Flag’s Day until 1983, becoming a holiday in 2005), but also D-Day for the allies’ historic invasion of Normandie as well as the present day elections for the European Union Parliament. Sweden will serve as president of the 27 member nations until the end of the year. To Swedes, the priority seems to focus on climate, energy sources and environment, followed by relations to neighboring states. Sweden as a country welcomes new EU-candidates, a view not shared by all members in the union. Ersman mentioned Nobel Prize winner and Archbishop Nathan Söderblom as an early spokesman against national isolation.
The “Three Crowns” symbol for the kingdom of Sweden is actually the oldest national symbol still in use worldwide. Our country has a very rich and varied past, at times a proud war nation and during other periods a poor country losing a quarter of its population to America. In later years it has become a desired immigration country to many people from around the world. In 1523 King Gustav Vasa become sovereign ruler, in 1809 the royal power was taken over by the state. During the Middle Ages, German was the universal language in northern Europe, to be replaced by French culture and language during the 1700s. These days there is Rinkeby Swedish and rap-lyrics of all shades and backgrounds, just like the rich diversity of food.
Following this speech, Christina Sjöblom treated us to a couple lovely summer songs and Karen von Unge, as always on this day dressed in her stylish folkloric outfit, read her traditional National Day poem. Fiddle and keyed fiddle accompanied the crowd as everyone streamed out as the yellow and blue flag was raised and we all sang, “Du gamla, Du fria….” SWEA Orange County served lunch and the Los Angeles chapter treated us to coffee and princess cake, the delicious one from Berolina Bakery. Lisbeth Abrahamsson was the lucky raffle winner receiving a trip on the legendary Göta Kanal.
Now summer is officially here and the fun can begin.