Swedish birthday traditions

Updated July 19, 2017

Celebrate a birthday, Swedish style. People from Sweden or with Swedish heritage can incorporate some Swedish traditions into their birthday celebrations. The Swedes have many traditions and customs. Some are no longer celebrated in the modern world, while others are still enjoyed for birthdays and other celebrations.

Breakfast in Bed

Traditionally, Swedish children are served breakfast in bed. Parents surprise the children by singing a traditional Swedish birthday song and bringing a birthday breakfast and gifts to the birthday child. The breakfast typically includes a hot roll with a candle in it and a beverage. Sometimes the parents will bring the birthday cake to the child while he is still in bed.


A classic Swedish birthday cake is the Princess Cake, known as "Princess tÄrta." It's a layered sponge or pound cake that is decorated in light green marzipan. Another Swedish birthday cake is known as "JordgubbstÄrta," which is a strawberry cake. The layered cake is often decorated with whipped cream and strawberries

Birthday Songs

The traditional Swedish birthday song is called, "Ja, ma du leva." There are two verses to the song. The message of the song is that singers hope the celebrant will live for a hundred years. The song concludes with the line which is, when translated, "A fourfold cheer...cheer for you hurrah, hurrah, hurrah, hurrah."

Other Swedish Birthday Traditions

Many Swedish people host an open house to celebrate their birthdays. Friends and relatives are invited to visit any time during the day. Swedes typically take a cake to the workplace to celebrate their own birthdays. It is traditional to include the country flag and flag colours in birthday decorations. An old Swedish birthday tradition was called "Name Day." With certain names of saints and martyrs associated with every day of the year, parents would name their child the name that corresponded with the date of birth. This tradition is still practised by some Swedes but is not widely practised in modern Sweden.

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About the Author

Stephanie Kelley has been writing articles and columns online for SGM Radio and SGN Scoops Digital since 2005. She has a Bachelor of Arts in art history/anthropology from Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash. and writes on a number of topics including art, frugal living, children and travel.