The first Sunday of August marks the beginning of crayfish season in Sweden – a day most famously known as ‘kräftpremiär’ by Swedes, roughly translated to crayfish premier.
Crayfish season starts at the beginning of August and ends somewhere around the end of October. For those lucky enough to have private access to lakes, it is custom to go fishing for your own crayfish. Otherwise, this is the short time of year where Swedish crayfish can be found in most grocery stores.
No matter how the crayfish are acquired, a party, kräftskiva to celebrate the season is among one of the most important Swedish customs. Let us break down the tradition and its origin:
What does a typical crayfish party look like?
Swedes typically celebrate crayfish season with elaborate dinner parties, most of which are likely to take place in the countryside or archipelago. The table is filled with crayfish, potatoes, bread and cheese, salads, and västerbottenpaj – a typical Swedish cheese pie.
As with every Swedish party, there will be plenty of drinks such as beer, aquavit, and snaps. Similar to the Swedish midsummer celebration, every shot, nubbe, of akvavit or snaps begins with a short song, nubbevisa.
Why do Swedes celebrate crayfish originate from?
Crayfish has been a part of Scandinavian cuisine since the middle ages. During the 1500s, they were commonly served as a festive dish during royal celebrations or among the upper class. It wasn’t until the 1800s that the crayfish would gain popularity with the general population. Due to the rationalization in farming during the time, many farmworkers were left without jobs. To survive, many of these workers would pick up fishing instead, making the crayfish more widely accessible to all layers of society.
A 100 years later, in the early 1900s, the crayfish was so popular among the Swedes that the government imposed several restrictions in fear that the crayfish would go extinct. That meant that crayfish were only allowed to be caught between August and the end of October. This law was revised in 1994, allowing for the fishing of crayfish any time of year. However, some local restrictions may apply in order to give the crayfish in a specific ecosystem time to grow.
What is the history of Crayfish parties? Kräftskivor?
Swedes have been celebrating the start of crayfish seasons since the late 1800s. Although the celebrations at the time were a lot more modest compared to what a modern-day crayfish party, kräftskiva, is.
With the government once again introducing restrictions against crayfish fishing, it would become an exclusive delicacy mostly available to those of the upper class. It was here that crayfish parties would become popular in the 1930s. With time and the availability of crayfish, the tradition would make its way to all layers of Swedish society.
Today it’s an important tradition to Swedes and is seen as a special time to get together with friends and family, eat crayfish and celebrate the arrival of fall.
Featured image: Anna Hållams/imagebank.sweden.se