National days are usually based on important events, but nothing of particular importance has taken place in Sweden on that date (June 6) in history. Journalist Gunnar Anderson suggests we change our national day from June 6th to the first Sunday of March, when the famous Vasaloppet (an annual long distance cross-country ski race held in Dalarna, Sweden) takes place.

This race is in popular consideration, the biggest cross-country ski race in the world. Andersson writes in an Op-ed in both Svenska Dagbladet and Aftonbladet: “For two decades we have tried to create a sense of festivity around June 6th without any real success. Probably because we already have a national feast – Vasaloppet.” He goes on to say, that the story of the king-to-be (that would be Gustav Vasa) fleeing on skis is enough to whip up a sense of nationalism among Swedes. Since 1922, we have celebrated Vasa’s feat (he was a young nobleman when he escaped Christian II’s troops on skis in 1520) by symbolically restoring our liberator in the oldest and one of the longest ski races in the world: 15 000 skiers race the 90 kilometer long race (that’s almost 56 miles). Anyone who wants to may participate, it’s a democratic race, where you do your best according to your capacity. You don’t even have to be a Swede to participate.

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“Whatever is needed for a great national celebration is already in place,” Andersson writes. “Let Vasaloppet become our national day. This sort of modern national party wouldn’t cost a thing, since it is already funded by a commercial company.”

Last year Vasaloppet turned over almost 90 million SEK ($13.6 million). “Commercialism,” Andersson continues, “is, no matter how bad it may sound, the only working guarantee for a timely people’s festivity, since the profit in this case demands both participants and audience. Add to that the fact that Vasaloppet always is arranged on a Sunday, unlike June 6.” The Crown Princess, the Prince and the King himself have been seen skiing in this democratic race. TV sends live and the nation watches. “What,” Andersson asks, “could be more fitting in this time of obesity than to celebrate our national day with physical prowess and strength?”

He concludes that “Sweden was made by skiers.” What do you think?

(The Op-Ed created some discussion in Sweden. One other writer suggesting to make Vätternrundan - the popular bicycle race around Lake Vättern - National day instead...)

Vasaloppet has become international in more ways than one with a total of five races, in Canada, China, Japan, Sweden and the U.S.. Our latest report from the Vasaloppet in USA: http://tinyurl.com/al3kgz3[Mora, Minnesota Vasaloppet]