Swedish Crayfish Party

Kräftskiva for all: What is a Swedish crayfish party?

Kräftskiva, or crayfish, is a pretty big deal in Sweden. In fact, the Swedes love their seafood so much, they have their own annual Swedish crayfish party to celebrate Kräftskiva in style. 

Though it might seem a little odd in other parts of the world, Sweden’s love of crayfish is a well-known concept throughout the Scandinavian region.

Every year, the Swedes consume tons of crayfish as part of a regular festival which includes everything from Aquavit liquor to silly hats. 

If you’re a fan of crayfish yourself, or you’re just keen to embrace more of the Swedish way of life, then you can host your very own celebration wherever you are. 

Here’s your guide to the Kräftskiva (crayfish) party.

What is a Swedish crayfish party?

Let’s start with the basics. 

Kräftskiva (crayfish), has been a popular food in Sweden since the 1500s. 

For a time, crayfish was only available to the most affluent people in the country, and it was frequently found within other foods like sausages, puddings, and patties. 

Towards the 1800s, people throughout Sweden began enjoying crayfish in the same way many of us eat them today. The crayfish supper or feast began to emerge in the month of August, spreading through the middle class, and eventually reaching all members of society. 

In the 1900s, Kräftskiva became a national delicacy for Sweden, among all members of society. 

Thanks to imports from various countries, the price of crayfish fell, and more people began enjoying the delicious food. Today, the Kräftskiva party is a tradition every August, with many families throwing huge celebrations to mark the event.

Swedish Crayfish Party

The Swedish crayfish party: What to expect

So, aside from a lot of Kräftskiva, what can you expect from a Swedish crayfish party?

Well, we all know Swedish life is all about having fun, and that’s definitely the case with a crayfish party. Typically, the Swedes prefer to eat their Kräftskiva outdoors, as part of a celebration of nature. Families often hang paper lanterns around a table, showing smiling faces on moons. 

The tablecloth for the event and the plates should also be made from paper, and people wear bibs around their necks, along with funny paper hats. 

If you’re thinking of attending a Kräftskiva party and you’re concerned about looking silly in a hat — don’t worry. The drink of the day is usually schnapps, beer, or aquavit, so you’ll probably find that your embarrassment disappears pretty quickly.

At a Swedish crayfish party, there’s no need to be particularly polite either. You eat the crayfish cold with your fingers, chew on huge chunks of bread and cheese, and enjoy the festivities as loudly as you like.

The common traditions of a Kräftskiva party

The most obvious ingredient of a Swedish crayfish party menu is the Kräftskiva. 

Often referred to as Swedish lobster, the crayfish is a delicious freshwater crustacean which exists somewhere between a prawn and a lobster. Oddly, before the year 1994, it was forbidden for anyone to begin fishing for crayfish until the first Wednesday of August. 

That’s why now, Kräftskiva parties are held in August, and celebrated by eating as many crayfish as possible. 

You eat your crayfish cold, and you’re more than welcome to suck the juices noisily from the shell. Attendees of these parties are encouraged to be as messy and greedy as you like. The average Kräftskiva Swedish crayfish party menu will feature around 1lb of crayfish per person. 

Other features of the party include:

  • Aquavit: The traditional schnapps of Sweden, aquavit is available in a range of flavours, and its extremely alcoholic, so maybe take it slow if you’re new to this drink. You can also enjoy beer instead if you prefer. 
  • Silly songs: Visit Sweden and you’ll quickly learn the Swedes don’t take themselves too seriously. Silly songs are pretty common at a crayfish party, and they can often involve replacing various parts of popular songs. For instance, “Gimme, gimme, gimme a Kräfta till Middag”, for ABBA’s hit. 
  • Hats: The paper hats at a crayfish party apparently started out when the middle and lower classes began eating the Kräftskiva for the first time and wanted to poke fun at the aristocracy. These days, it’s just another great way to have some fun. 
  • Decorations: Almost every supermarket in Sweden will be stocked with crayfish accessories leading up to August. You’re sure to find plenty of lanterns with grinning moons, paper plates, and other gorgeous decorations to make your party feel more authentic. 
  • Cheese: Swedish cheese is a common part of a Swedish crayfish party menu, and it comes in a range of forms. Mature cheddars are a popular choice, as are home-made Vasterbotten cheese quiches. You can also add chunks of fresh-baked bread
Swedish Crayfish Party

Where do you throw a Swedish crayfish party?

If you’re not actually celebrating in Sweden, there’s nothing stopping you from choosing where you’d like to throw your party based on the weather, and the number of invitees. However, in Sweden, most locals prefer to have the event outdoors. 

The Kräftskiva party is supposed to be a celebration of the waters opening up for fishing again, so it only makes sense to get out and enjoy nature. 

If you have the space in your garden or a local field, it’s definitely worth taking the time to set up an outdoor event. You can put up a gazebo if you’re worried about the weather and hang some lanterns from that. 

Remember to tape any paper plates or decorations down if you’re worried about them flying off. 

If you are celebrating your Kräftskiva in Sweden, then you can probably find plenty of places wherever you are to go and have fun with the locals. 

While it’s common to host your own party where you can invite friends and family, there are also various local and public events which welcome tourists and visitors from around the world. 

The great thing about doing a Kräftskiva party in Sweden is you don’t need to worry about decorations or bringing anything with you. Most of the time, all you need is an appetite for fun (and crayfish of course).

Tips for throwing your Kräftskiva party

As more of the world continues to embrace Swedish and Scandinavian traditions, we’re seeing things like Kräftskiva days popping up everywhere. 

Provided you take the general spirit of playfulness and crayfish into consideration, you’re free to give the event your own spin, and celebrate however you like. 

If you need a little help making the experience authentic, try catching up on your Swedish traditions with this book to guide you through the wonderful ways of Sweden.

For help making your own Swedish treats (to go alongside the crayfish), you can check out some amazing recipes from Rachel Khoo here

Alternatively, why not try your hand at creating an authentic Swedish smorgasbord for your guests

Remember, the key to having a great time at a Kräftskiva party is simply letting loose. 

Don’t worry too much about making a mess with the crayfish. You should be eating everything with paper plates and bibs anyway, so it’s easy to get rid of everything when you’re done partying. 

To help everyone have a great time, make sure you have crayfish knives available for those who don’t want to crack into the shells with their teeth. It’s also helpful to have plenty of napkins available for your friends who are going to be getting messy by your side. 

If you want to make your Kräftskiva experience a little extra fancy, you can always create some finger bowls of lemony water to place around the table too.

Enjoy your Swedish themed party

When it comes to Swedish themed party experience, it doesn’t get much better than the amazing Kräftskiva party. If you’re a lover of seafood and a fan of all-things Sweden, then this is the perfect way to start bringing more Swedish fun into your yearly calendar. 

If you love the experience, you can make it a part of your routine every year, and invite more friends and loved ones to come and share the experience with you. 

Even better, why not plan a trip to Sweden in August and see the Kräftskiva parties going strong around the country for yourself?

Check out our other articles for insights into more of the amazing Swedish traditions you need to know about. 

Scandification: Discovering Scandinavia.

Now read these:
Shining light on Swedish Midsommar
Getting a taste for surströmming
The meaning of Lagom in Sweden
Enjoying a Swedish Fika moment
The history of Swedish fish sweets

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