Gustavus Adolfsdagen

The facts of my family’s Swedish heritage were taught to me, in bits and pieces, throughout my childhood.  The subject of Sweden has delighted me all of my life. However, I’ve often wondered why the histories of nations other than the U.S., Britain, France, Rome, and China aren’t taught in public schools.  I think it is important for kids to know their vintage heritage.GustavusAdolphus-SwedenMap

The vast majority of my schoolmates reported backgrounds of German and Scandinavian or some mixture of the same.  Among the mixture of Finns, Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes, the Swedes outnumbered the rest.  I don’t recall even one day of Swedish history.  Denmark is mentioned briefly.  There are also some oblique mentions of Norse or Viking people.  During the years of my youth there were scant resources available about Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia for juvenile readers.

It was very fortunate that I was able to interact with some first and second generation Swedish-Americans. My extended family was an endless source of fascination and interest to my budding journalistic nature. Unfortunately, there were a few of the oldest relatives who did their best to become overtly Americanized.  They disowned their Swedish roots, they didn’t even allow the Swedish language to be spoken in their homes. Luckily, a few aunts and uncles were proud of our heritage and even maintained personal ties with family in the homeland.

These are the people who celebrated some of the major Swedish holidays or at least made mention of them.  For the knowledge they passed along, I’m quite thankful. Today is a major holiday for our Swedish friends.  Gustav Adolfsdagen is a much beloved thematic day and is one of the Flag Days in Sweden and Finland. Today’s holiday is especially popular in a few cities, such as in Göteborg which is one of the cities founded by King Gustav II Adolf.  Citizens of Uppsala celebrate the day because of his generosity towards their University.

GustavAdolphus-AdolfsbakelsePublic school pupils in many other towns and cities, like Varmland and Lund throw Gustav Adolf prom parties.  One of the many treats are the Gustav Adolf cakes.  A traditional form of the pastry is instantly recognized by its candy cameo of the legendary king, made of chocolate or marzipan.  The variety of Gustav Adolf cake I remember best has the rich taste of chocolate and lemon with a butter-creme crunchy bottom of the cake that had been drenched in glaze. The treat is topped with some sort of white topping like whipped cream then garnished with the Gustav Adolf cameo.

I thought it strange that a nation would celebrate the death of one of its most beloved historical figures with cake. My aunt Emma said she didn’t know either; only that it was an old tradition.

Gustav II Adolf lived from December 9, 1594 until November 6, 1632. Where he is GustavusAdolphus-01mentioned in English texts he is called Gustavus Adolphus. Some historians refer to him as Gustav Adolph The Great, or, in Swedish, “Gustav Adolf den Store”.

Gustav Adolf is credited with the birth of “Stormakstiden” or the Golden age of Sweden. The European political and religious balance of power was greatly influenced by him and his reign. He led many important battles, including his most noteworthy victory in the 1631 Battle of Breitenfeld.  The most advanced weapons technology, Swedish training and discipline along with very effective strategy came together.  His government was exceptionally effective and popular, plus his debts were repaid promptly.

Gustav Adolf was on the verge of becoming a major European leader and historical figure except that he was killed in action at the Battle of Lützen on November 6, 1632. It was one of the most decisive contests of the Thirty Years’ War. Sweden obtained a Protestant victory.  The death of the Protestant campaign’s most effective leader left the movement without strong direction for a few years. The Golden Age did recoup during the leadership of other commanders who had followed the example of their highly esteemed king.

Gustav Adolf left a stellar legacy. Sweden grew from a mundane regional kingdom into one of the three major European powers. His government became a template for the early modern governmental era.  Military historians have called him the father of modern warfare and the first great modern general.


The Blue Jay of Happiness notes that a Lutheran college in St. Peter, Minnesota was named after the king. Gustavus Adolphus College is a thriving regional school.




About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in History, Politics, religion and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.