So in Portugal Carnival is celebrated, and as in Rio it’s a happy celebration, a party of music, dancing and parading in festive, colourful, imaginative costumes and masks. The party goes on for a couple of weeks and kids are off from school to take part in the celebrations.
The festivity has it’s origins in religion and although not quite inducible anymore with the costumes focusing more on the naked parts of the body than those with clothing on, it is actually the opportunity to feast before fasting – lent.
As in many other Christian countries Sweden has a variant of the celebration with about the same timing, derived as they all are from the Gregorian calendar. The Swedish variant means one particular Tuesday is assigned for eating a very heavy bun filled with sweet stuffing and topped with loads of cream, a fastlagsbulle.
That’s it. No dancing. No masks. No music. No party.
Sure, Swedes have one sanctioned party every year, Midsummer’s Eve, the longest day of the year, and also the day when it’s commonly allowed and incentivised to drink a lot and dance around a flower ornamented pole together with your children. But that’s not part of Christian tradition. It’s part of our hedonic heritage. The vikings where big on parties and lust and feasting, embracing pretty much all the deadly sins while enjoying life. Probably because it was so short, but anyway all the more reason to live it.
Then came Martin Luther. German. He didn’t believe in indulgences. At all. In fact he got kicked out of the Catholic church for being so harsh as to say that you can’t pay yourself out of sin and hence that the church cannot give forgiveness but instead that only faith could get you God’s forgiveness. Mind blowing stuff. And particularly annoying to the rich Roman Catholic church.
And Sweden amongst others embraced Lutheranism. Along with the values that life is not about indulgences, but rather, it’s hard and it’s a struggle and it has the sole purpose of achieving God’s forgiveness.
Today, Sweden is a country that in many ways has taken steps away from religion as an active part not only of society but to a large extent also from the private zone. A Swedish citizen does not have to belong to the Swedish church, neither as a tax payer nor as a social human being. Swedes can however still use the old churches and sanctuaries, and indeed, they are still often preferred for marriage or baptising, however with the instruction to the priest to leave out the main of the religious and confessionary parts where possible.
But from the other perspective Swedes are still quite strong on the struggle aspect of life. It should not be easy. Some things just must be done. Do’s and dont’s as part of the daily regime. A part of your free will being restrained, like being subdued. We even have a law, co-shared with the Danes, that states that you are better than nobody else. As in, do not think you are something special, you’ve got to work hard for everything, nothing is free, and nothing is easy.
Now, Sweden is a very modern country, well integrated with the rest of the Western world, and a fast adopter when it comes to picking up influences from outer parties. So no doubt things are changing, but still, it makes me wonder, how come Swedes quite easily left the faith parts of being religious but still kept hanging on to so many of the Lutheran values?
I mean, sure, the Carnival spirit doesn’t seem to be growing ground for efficient and prospering economic systems, but still, wouldn’t it be nice to get rid of at least some of the must and should and just, you know, Want?