Milbank SD, October 7, 2015

You Cycle to little;you smoke too much; and your so damn liberal when it comes to the food and the booze!

I should have quit long ago; but this schnapps is so small; why be hypocritical?  Soon enough you’ll cycle.

What you may ask is this about and why, you may ask, is Olaf breaking out in verse?  First, this is a Swedish schnapps (snaps) song, and well I had much to celebrate this week but like much of what I do, it has to be left unsaid, well at least in polite company or those of you in “the know.”  But just let me say, it was worth celebrating.  Even my 15 yo at home had a nip.

Being a Swede (well an immigrant’s descendant’s-decedent’s-decedent, and even though one Swedish side left for probably the reason I write this blog) , there is only one truly way to celebrate and that is with aquavit or snaps using Swedish spelling, I am no German. (although that isn’t a 100% deal anymore as Scotch seems a good substitute).  Swedes have a peculiar tradition when they drink.

What is the similarity of bumblebees, lonely cows, tinnitus, and apparently cycling?

THE Snaps song!!

Why sing when you drink?  Some ideas that have been put forth.

1) It keeps you focused.  An unfocused Swede is a truly evil and ugly thing.  Ritual is good, have you attended a Swedish Lutheran Church lately?

2) It promotes good manners.  No one drinks too early, even non-drinkers participate, if you get too drunk and can’t sing, so then you CAN’T drink, hence there is also a bit of safety, but well, as i think my family on the Vedelius side immigrated due to the fact that they couldn’t hold their alcohol, with bad genes, therefore, I never get that far.  It was called the Pius Movement in the 1880s but I think it was all about drinking and no so much about worship…or maybe they just couldn’t sing?

there is a whole series of studies of whether snaps songs promote sobriety but many believe it promotes also good health.  An Anecdote comes from the famous author, August Strndberg in a 1883 dinnerparty filled with the literary minds of the time.  The formal invitation stated that four snaps songs HAD to be sung during the dinner.  The last one he hand wrote the words.

It is the people’s protection from the yellow dangers, its consolation in each pale faced sorrow, it protects us against worms in the stomach and it rasps as a twelve-inch nail.

3) it is fun.  These songs are goofy and for the creative, you can invent your own.  Some say Swedes invented Karaoke, not the Japanese, they both share the same word for “good bye” senora, maybe some wayward Viking took the Japanese word for good-bye and gave them the theory of the drinking song in return before he rowed home?

My Great-grandfather Danielson was famous for saying he didn’t “drink,”  he only celebrated…..celebrated with snaps, and well be it a litter of puppies or even purchasing a new bottle of snaps it seemed by the stories he was never more than a few steps away from a drink or it seems …a song to share in the “celebration”.

This seems to be doubly amazing in all this happened in what was a dry township in Wisconsin of all places, but alas my great grandfather Danielson died a year before I came to be so all I have is a few stories.

4)  This is living history.  Consider it like a Renaissance Festival or something.  This goes back to the Middle ages and beyond.  It is deeply rooted in my soul as a Swede, even a displaced one twice removed.  They were written about in the Icelandic sagas and who are we to contradict Snorri Sturluson,  He died in 1241, therefore he must be correct?

Swedes fought for the right to drink snaps.  As Prohibition forces took aim at the fertile ground that appeared to be Sweden to ban the devil brew, a campaign in 1922 before the vote arose.

Crayfish and the akvavit became so closely associated that the Swedish humorist Engström was used to convince voters that prohibition would mean that you had to be without their beloved crayfish. “Crayfish DEMAND these drinks” the poster above says.  As it is said…..many fought and died for the right to Skål! so drink up and sing away!

By the way, I was told, people who know about the akvavit at Swedish crayfish parties prepare for this by ‘biting’ their drinks. Just a sip for every drinking song. A mythical tradition has it that you should drink a shot of akvavit for every claw. That’s nothing but a myth. (Thank God.)   Now, I have never been to a crayfish party, just drank into oblivion at Midsommar parties, and I didn’t “bite” correctly, or so I surmise hence the fogginess of it all.

Also, understand most of the songs are in Swedish and they don’t translate, they don’t translate at all.  I’m not even sure the Swedes understand some of them.  I’ll spare you those.

Now, I recommend always using drinking songs and well you should also always use snaps…here is some advice.

If your friends say..”I don’t like snaps,” you answer…”Right, who doesn’t like a snaps!”

Here is an easy one and you can use Scotch for the snaps….like me in my celebration..

once i had a snaps,

I heard a tone strike,

Then we sang a little song,

then the snaps disappeared!

Answer me: Where is it now?

I just wonder, where is it now…



3 thoughts on “Skål!

  1. Well Olaf, maybe you didn’t bite enough to remember. But surely you have been to a real Swedish crayfish party at our place outside Stockholm. We even translated the songs for you!

    • That was Midsommer….wasn’t it? I thought Crayfish parties were only in like August….I’ve never been to Sweden in August….Or was I too much in the aquavit bag as we would say in America, to know. I fondly remember singing songs in June at your house, Allwin even surprised all with his own song

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>