Perhaps not in line with the stereotypical image of the conserved and quite Scandinavian but the tradition of the ‘snapsvisa’ is an important part of larger holiday celebrations such as Easter, midsummer, or Christmas.

What is a snapsvisa?

A ‘snapsvisa’ is a variety of traditional short songs, sung right before taking a shot of snaps or akvavit at a holiday dinner in Scandinavia. The songs are most of the time supposed to be humorous and in one way or another glorifies the drink or the singer’s desire to drink the contents of the glass they are holding.

The most popular snapsvisa is ‘Helan går’:

Swedish version

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
(Drink)
Sjung hopp faderallan lej

English version

The whole goes down
Sing “hup fol-de-rol la la la la”
The whole goes down
Sing “hup fol-de-rol la la”
And he who doesn’t take the whole
Doesn’t get the half either
The whole goes down
[drink]
Sing “hup fol-de-rol la la”

The history of the snapsvisa

The tradition of singing, before taking a shot of akvavit or snaps at a dinner celebration, originated from student organizations and the academic circles in Scandinavia during the second half of the 18th century. The snaps songs would become more popularised among the rest of the population about 100 years ago – during the same time as the government would tighten up the control around alcohol consumption in Sweden.

In a way, the snaps songs offer a somewhat cheeky response to sobriety and distancing from alcohol which was long a coveted way of living in Swedish society.

Check out the Swedish actress, Malin Åkerman, sing Helan går below!

This article was originally published on March 30, 2021

Swedes in the States

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