THE CRAYFISH TRADITION
Eating Crayfish, or Astacus Astacus, goes back to the time of Swedish King Erik XIV in the 16th century. His highness was known to have farmed the crusty crawlers in his moat at Kalmar Castle. The native species in Scandinavia, flodkräftor, are therefore generally referred to as the Noble Crayfish.
But it was not until the end of the 19th century when the current tradition of eating crawfish began: whole, cold and basking in the dill weed water they were boiled in. It became popular in Scandinavia to quietly crack a shell on the verandas at the end of the summer. The party came soon after. The specific name for the party, kräftskiva, Rapujuhlat, Krepselag, Vatnakrabbi Oarty or Krebsegilde first entered the Scandinavian languages in the 1930s.
It hasn’t been smooth sailing for the little mudbugs. Scandinavian flodkräftor were threatened in 1907 when the crayfish were first afflicted by crayfish plague, a disease that almost wiped out the entire species. It seemed like the Noble Crayfish would soon become extinct, and a law was passed protecting fishing of Crayfish all year around, except the month of August.
“It is culturally correct to suck the juice out of the crayfish before shelling it.”
Dining is traditionally outdoors with customary party accessories are comical paper hats, colourful tablecloths, paper lanterns and bibs.
The lanterns typically depicts the Man in the Moon, symbolizing the dark, moon-lit nights in Scandinavian August. A rowdy atmosphere prevails amid noisy eating and traditional drinking songs (snapsvisa, drikke vise, juomalaulu).
The alcohol consumption is often high, especially when compared to the amount of food actually eaten (crayfish shelling is tedious work).
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