Table set for a traditional Swedish crayfish party.
History records reveal the Swedes have been eating crayfish since the 16th century, yet it was limited to be enjoyed by the aristocracy as there was suspicion connected to its consumption back then. From the mid-19th century crayfish consumption became more common, and soon in the following years among the middle class the crayfish party was initiated;and known locally as kräftskiva. It has become a traditional eating and drinking celebration in the summer season of Nordic countries.
The party is generally enjoyed in August within Sweden;as it was mainly during the 20th century, that the harvesting of crayfish was limited towards the end of the summer by law. The law was implemented to protect the species of crayfish from over-fishing as the demand for it elevated.
Catching crayfish is best done at night as they are nocturnal seafood creatures. Wire traps are utilized to catch them with use of rotten or raw fish as bait. It was also during the 20th century that crayfish took on the role of being a national delicacy and various Swedes in different types of society began to have festivities in August involving crayfish. It is a merry party of feasting, drinking and basically also celebrating the end of summer.
Traditionally the party is held outdoors, yet the weather may be unpleasant and at this time of the year mosquitoes may be rampant;which means it is often held indoors.
To prepare and take part in the party, people tend to wear humorous paper hats and around everyone’s necks is a bib (to keep clothes clean on the chest area). Table decorations include paper tablecloths, while there are also colourful paper lanterns (usually showing a smiling moon, the crescent moon or Man in the Moon). Plates are generally made of colourful hard paper.
The preparation of the main meal, which is crayfish, is simple. The live crayfish are placed in boiling liquor or water to be boiled with salt added. After this they are seasoned with the herb dill and served cold, for diners to enjoy eating with their fingers. Other foods found at such a party may include bread, mushroom pies, a strong cheese, salads and other dishes all served buffet-style. Alcoholic beverages are generally beer and schnapps (a high alcohol volume drink).
Diners are known to become loud, sing songs and drink alcohol in high volumes. It is also customarily to suck the juice from within the crayfish shells before shelling them.
Traditional uses of crayfish meat were for it to be prepared into sausage, ragout, patties or puddings. Today crayfish can be bought any time of the year due to imports, yet locally caught crayfish are still desired by the general public to specifically be enjoyed in the August crayfish festivities. Sometimes in the past Chinese or United States of American imported crayfish have been highly regarded. Yet Swedish crayfish are generally deemed best, yet are quite pricey. Local crayfish populations have also endured much loss due to a parasitic mould during different times.