Skolavslutning

This is the Swedish way of saying ‘end of school’ for the academic year. Summer holidays start now. This morning I went to the skolavslutning at our children’s school. It was my son’s last one at this school before he moves on to a new school in August.

Each year group sings a song, at least one of which has some connection to Astrid Lindgren and the others are in some way hymns to summer and sunny days and how beautiful Sweden is in the summer (which it is). i think they sand the national anthem. Then there are various thank you speeches and a speech by the school principal (usually including a reminder to the assembled children and parents to read some books together). Flowers and chocolates are given to teachers, farewells are said and a big creamy cake with strawberries is eaten. About the only time of the year that a vast intake of sugar is encouraged. By 9.30am it’s all done and there’s no teaching happening that day.

I don’t know if this tradition has spread to other countries but I’d never had a ceremony to celebrate the end of school myself. We maybe got a day without school uniform but the end of school year was usually marked by teachers showing us lots of videos and us just running out of school glad not to have to go back for another six weeks.

According to one of the Swedish parents, the songs were more or less exactly the same ones that he sang at his avslutnings more than 30 years ago. You can see all the parents who went to school, singing along with a nostalgic tear in their eye.

It reveals a traditional heart to Swedish society with unchanging routines, a commitment to communal singing, a praising of the Swedish summer (which so far this year has been genuinely wonderful) and a relaxing of the distance between people.

It also shows how Sweden struggles with integration. No attempt has or was made to explain the traditions, the characters, the reasons behind it and so as a non-Swede I watch the proceedings with vague incomprehension and little interest in the proceedings. There is no easy way to make it my tradition and so I am less invested, not a participant but a spectator and my bond to my adopted country is not strengthened. Although if my children remain in Sweden as adults then it will have become their tradition.

Do schools in your country mark the end of the school year? If so, how? Leave a comment below.

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