Tag Archives: Swedish Reckoning

The Swedish Reckoning

I want to keep the following thing I wrote from disappearing into the nether-regions of old Facebook posts, so I’m copying it here as well. This won’t make a great deal of sense to most people who come to this blog, so I will give a bit of explanation.

Last week, our youth group met at a different church (that is, not our church). During our meal together, one of the youth at my table noticed a clock that had the regular twelve-hour dial as well as the numbers 1-31 in a smaller size on the outside of the regular time circle. One of them wondered what those numbers were for. I immediately suggested that because of Sweden’s northerly latitude they had a different way of reckoning time than we do—that their day has 31 hours, rather than 24 (several of our local churches are of Swedish heritage).

This story kind of blew up from there (and I didn’t resist): I hammed it up during announcements, coming up with the phrase “Swedish Reckoning,” suggesting that there had been a great coverup by their parents and grandparents, and noting that the Dutch had been joking about the Swedish Reckoning for generations. Youth were searching Google for verification of the existence of the Swedish Reckoning and the 31-hour day. Of course, they couldn’t find anything because Sweden has sensored all Swedish Reckoning information and records, much like China exercises some control over the internet. 

The next day I posted the following on the youth Facebook page. I was quite pleased with what I wrote. Some people thought I was sharing facts—at least until the bit at the end about socks and sandals, which is a long-running inside joke at youth, and is the clue for them about the veracity of this story. In fact, to end on the words “socks in sandals” was perhaps the most satisfying part of writing this story. (One person jokingly [I hope] said I was abusing pastoral trust!)

* * *

Last night at youth, during dessert, I told the youth about the Swedish Reckoning (SR). They had no idea what this was, which doesn’t surprise me, as the history of the SR has long been covered up and distorted by half-truths and misinformation.

There is a remnant of SR at the New Sweden Church, where we met last night. There is a clock that has both the regular twelve hours on it as well as, in smaller numerals, the 31-hour clock, which was historically the Swedish breakdown of the day. In recent years, this has been denied and some have tried to explain the 31 numbers on the clock as denoting days of the month. Of course, this is a thin line of reasoning, as this would not account for nearly half of the months of the year.

No, owing to local Swedish mythology, which quite naturally grew out of their extreme northerly latitude, a day was divided into 31 hours. The clock at New Sweden reflects the desire of Swedish settlers to be able to communicate and engage effectively in non-SR cultures by including the 12/24 hour system. Today, SR is not observed anywhere in the world, other than for ceremonial purposes and at heritage sites, as well as a small sect which lives in a commune in the north of Sweden.

I bring this up because this weekend is the time change, where here in Alberta and across much of the world, we set our clocks back an hour on Saturday night/Sunday morning. Interestingly, the time change in SR was a little bit different than ours, and a lot more confusing. There was no simple “Spring Forward” or “Fall Back” for them, with a an easy adjustment of an hour. Instead, under the SR, in the fall their clocks would be turned back by three and a quarter hours and then three hours later, turned forward by an hour and twenty minutes. The procedure to move the clock forward under SR in the spring was so complicated that a 350 page book was published by the Swedish government.

Now you know!

As an interesting side note, twice each year a small community in northern Sweden celebrates the Swedish Reckoning in a ceremony involving 31 baked pies, a complicated dance sequence (“3.25 steps back, 1.3 steps forward”), and a public reading of Guidelines for Time Adjustment at Vernal Equinox Under the Swedish Reckoning, which has become a sort of religious document for this sect. Their ceremonial garb includes colourful robes, clock hats, and socks in sandals.