It’s crayfish season – and time to party!

August is a lovely month in Sweden. The days are still long and warm, the evenings are bathed in a magical light, and it’s time for another important cultural event in Sweden – the crayfish party, or kräftskiva, which looks like this.

Crayfish have always been considered something of a delicacy in Sweden, as the Baltic crayfish population has long been at risk of overexploitation and catches have been restricted since the early 1900s. Even though today’s global marketplace means that crayfish are now on sale year-round in Sweden, it is really only in August that the Swedes turn to this very special dish as they make the most of the remaining days of summer. Those on a tight budget opt for crayfish imported from China or the US, but Swedish crayfish are of course considered far superior!

A crayfish party is an outdoor affair, with the dining area decorated with paper lanterns, many depicting a smiling full moon. Paper hats and bibs add to the jovial atmosphere. The crayfish, cooked in brine and seasoned with plenty of dill, are served in large bowls placed in the centre of the table and eaten cold with fresh bread and a strong cheese (such as a mature Västerbotten) on the side.

An evening of crayfish eating is a noisy business, both because of the cracking and sucking sounds, which are an integral part of crayfish consumption, and the frequent bursts of singing – an essential prelude to each toast and drink of schnapps! A number of flavoured schnapps from different regions are usually available, and everyone will have their favourite – some are instantly palatable, while others are very much an acquired taste!

If you are lucky enough to be invited to a Swedish crayfish party, it is a cultural experience you will not easily forget. The memories will stay with you long after your sticky hands have been washed and your head has been cleared by a bracing early morning dip in the lake – memories of an evening of companionship, wonderful food and some perhaps less than perfect singing!

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
Sjung hopp faderallan lej

Listen to ABBA’s rendition of Helan går (”the whole one goes” – roughly, you have to drink your schnapps in one, otherwise you can’t have any at all!) here.

Sweden is enjoying a beautiful warm August in many areas at the moment, so the outlook for crayfish party season looks good – have fun, and don’t forget: the whole one goes!

Best regards

The Nature Travels Team

Nature Travels is the UK specialist for responsible adventure holidays in Sweden with a wide range of ecotourism holidays including canoeing, dog sledding, and Swedish log cabin experiences.

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