A sweet cake featuring the silhouette of Sweden’s great warrior king, King Gustav Adolf II, hits the shelves this weekend.
The custom of eating this pastry on November 6th, in honour of his majesty’s death, has spread across the country, with the strongest foothold in the Gothenburg area.
Local Gothenburg bakery, Dahl’s Bageri, touts a cake filled with both light and dark chocolate mousse and a thin chocolate crust. On top sits Gustav Adolf’s head in white chocolate.
But celebrating All Saint’s Day in Sweden isn’t as old as one might think and bears no connection to the mighty king.
According to a Swedish folklorist from the Nordic Museum based in Stockholm, Jonas Engman says the tradition of All Saint’s Day has Celtic roots and Swedes adopted it in the early 20th century.
“One would think Sweden has celebrated All Saint’s Day for centuries, but it has not. It emerged during the 1930s, especially during the post-war period. My guess is that it is linked to urbanization and the rise of cities,” Engman told the TT news agency.
“But so many modern Swedes don’t want to hear this. They want the holidays to be based on ancient traditions, the older the better,” he said.
“By celebrating holidays like Christmas and All Saint’s Day, we are in line with and do the same things that people before us have done. Since the 1800s, it has been important for nations, families and individuals to show that we have a history and a cultural identity.”
The Celts originally celebrated Halloween on October 31st, the beginning of the winter months and a day they believed the door between the living and the dead stood slightly ajar.
Once adopted by the Catholic Church, it became a day for believers to honour all saints and martyrs, known and unknown, throughout Christian history.
It has been a Christian tradition typically celebrated since the 4th century AD and was dedicated to the first of November in 837AD by Pope Gregory IV.