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Gasques: food, drink, tradition, and more drink 2006 September 29

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Food & Drink, Helpful Hints, Language, Social Life.

I’ve attended two gasques thus far during my stay at Uppsala, and they are one of the most entertaining and unique aspects of studying in Sweden. I’ve been looking for ways to describe gasques in a historical sense, but I really haven’t found much. What I can tell you, though, is that they are traditional three-course dinners here in Uppsala, and they’re a ton of fun. And lots of drinking!

lots of booze, baby my goofy friend Mathias and me
Left: Crazy amounts of alcohol + some absorption (good food!); Right: what crazy amounts of alcohol can do to you! (just kidding! That’s Mathias and me)

My first experience at a gasque was the Reccegask, a gasque mostly intended for the newcomers to a nation. The attendees gather in front of the main university building behind their nations’ flags, and parade into the beautiful hall for a number of musical performances and inspiring/funny/mildly interesting speeches given by a variety of important people in the nation and university communities. I rather enjoyed all performances, especially the great music (some swing and jazz!) and the funny speeches (although in Swedish, I fortunately understood virtually everything).

We then headed back to our respective nations. There was a small amount of time for mingling and drinking champagne before we entered the dining hall. Seats were assigned, which in my opinion makes it more fun; you meet new people and your table mate is a surprise.

This particuar gasque’s dresscode was kavaj, which means a jacket (and perhaps a tie, well, preferrably, I do believe) for the gentlemen and a skirt or cocktail dress for the ladies. Literally, it does mean ‘jacket.’ Some gasques are more formal (högtidsdräkt) and others are themed (tema), and I’m very excited for a few of the formal gasques.

Earlier I mentioned table mates; they are an important part of the gasque. Gasques are largely about tradition, and traditionally, each person has a table mate. A lady’s table mate is on her left, thus a gentleman’s table mate is on his right. After every toast, you begin to toast your table mate, then the person on your other side, then the person in front of you. Clinking of glasses does not occur (this is not just due to the space between yourself and the person you are toasting, it’s due to tradition!). You take your sip/swig/gulp, and you repeat the toast, except backwards. You might take just one more taste of your drink before you set it down.

These toasts occur after every song. There are songs about wine, snaps, beer, and so forth. At gasques, you get a glass for wine, one for beer, another for water, and one for snaps. You often also get a dessert wine glass and a punsch glass later. You can have as many snaps glasses as you want, whereas the beer is already waiting for you and the wine is filled up during dinner at least once.

LOTS of booze...
Glasses from left to right: dessert wine, wine, beer, water, snaps. Not shown: punsch glass.

By now, you can probably tell that there is a lot of drinking, and if it wasn’t for the dinner it might be a little too much. If the amount of glasses didn’t already tell you a lot about the drinking, the tremendous amount of singing will. There is usually a song leader as well as somewhat of a master of ceremonies, who introduces the song leader in the beginning as well as sporadic speeches and performances throughout the dinner. These dinners are certainly not just about food and drink; they’re about entertainment and conversation. There are also songs that the performers sing after they have performed, to which there is a reply from the audience. I think there are also songs sung after speeches. I’ve yet to catch on to what the lyrics are and how they go, but I figure after a few more gasques I will have understood.

Edvard! Aussie Warren
Left: my first table mate (from the Reccegask), Edvard; Right: my friend Warren at the International Gasque

The songs for the gasques are incredible, and the rules are simple: sing loud and sing often, even if you don’t know the lyric or the melody! Most all of the songs are in Swedish, but on occasion there’s a German song or a French song. Most of the songs’ melodies come from folk songs or traditional songs to which most people know the tune, thus it’s easy to sing after the lyrics are learned. Traditional drinking songs like Helan går and Punschen kommer are most definitely sung, and don’t worry if you have problems following along; the nations each have songbooks for sale, which are great souvenirs and part of the tradition as well.

Near the end of the gasque, tradition prescribes that you exchange your placename with your table mate to save inside the songbook, and, if so desired, write in each others’ songbooks. Most people pass their songbooks around to those with whom they toasted or talked, and one is not supposed to read their messages until the next day.

Also at the end of the gasque, one particular song is sung. I’m not sure if this is with every gasque, but I’m rather sure of it as the tradition regarding this song is what we’ve done at the end of each gasque I’ve attended.The song is O gamla klang och jubeltid, and during certain parts of the song, students of particular fields stand up and sing their specific lyrics, determined by their field of study. When the song is over, you stand up on your chairs and toast your glasses – this time, letting the glasses touch! – and you finish your drink. Sitting back down in the chairs isn’t allowed, and it’s breaking tradition to do so!

My advice to any international student coming to Uppsala is to most definitely attend at least one gasque besides the international gasque. That’s two gasques for the entire year, and although they can cost around 200-300 SEK, it’s very much worth it, considering the prices of food and alcohol.

Oh, and my other piece of advice? Don’t take the darker snaps! Trust me on this one!



1. Grant - 2006 September 29

MMMMM booze and food.

what an excellent mix.

2. Amber - 2006 September 29

Sounds like fun!

3. Nathan - 2006 September 30

Now that is a proper night out!

4. Nathan - 2006 September 30

Now that is a proper night out! Bring more port I say!

5. Ef - 2006 September 30

So fancy!

6. Jon Karlsson - 2006 November 11

Just surfed around the web and oh, am I getting home-sick when I read about all the fun you have?? Make the most out of your year in Uppsala, its a unique experience!

/Jon, Uppsalabo (Värmlands) who currently spends a year in San Luis Obispo, California (and there’s no snow here, I can tell you that!)

7. Julgask « A Year in Sweden - 2007 January 7

[…] in Social Life, Food & Drink, Swedish Holidays. trackback I made it to my third and final gasque of the term with a julgask (Christmas gasque) at my nation, Värmlands, on 2 December. I had […]

8. Sverige » Travels to Come - 2008 February 18

[…] Instead of going to class that day I ended up going into town and buying a suit for the international students gasque at the end of the month. Gasques are basically formal dinner parties. There’s a pretty good description of what gasques are here. […]

9. Shona Printy - 2011 August 5

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