It literally translates to 'red day' because red is the colour ink Swedes used to mark important dates on their calendars.
'Red days' and 'Free days'
Swedes are big on celebrations. Apart from the public holidays that both Singapore and Sweden celebrate, such as Christmas Day and New Year's Day, Easter Sunday (Påskdagen), Easter Monday (Annan dag Påsk), All Saint's Day (Alla hellions dag), to name a few, are public holidays.
Public holidays are known as 'red days' in Sweden. Sunday and other statutory (religious or traditional) days are red days. These are days when there is no work officially. There are other non-working days in the Swedish calendar that are not considered red days. These days are called 'free days'. Confused?
'Free days' are days when employees are allowed to take off from work so that they can celebrate the tradition (or religious celebration) that falls on that day. Let me try my best to explain this concept.
In Sweden, they don't call it 'Annual Leave' like in Singapore. It is called 'Annual Vacation Days'. Now, hold your breath. All employees are entitled to 25 annual vacation days including free days regardless of age, or type of employment according to Annual Leave Act. Even if you are working irregular hours or part-time, your annual vacation is recalculated to the equivalent of 25 days.
Let's come back to 'free day' and how it works. Let's use the Midsummer celebration in Sweden as a good example to explain this. The midsummer celebration is huge in Sweden. Midsummer Eve (midsommarafton) is not a red day BUT many people are free from work to prepare for the Midsummer celebration. This is by the collective bargaining agreement or by the agreement of the employer. That means, employers agree to give the free day to all employees on Midsummer Eve (for example). You will notice supermarkets like COOP, ICA, Hemköp, Ldl, etc. will put a notice on the entrance of their respective opening hours during Midsummer and they also put up a post on their social media platform.
'Bridge day' or klämdag is a day that falls in between a red day and a weekend and Swedes love to take the klämdag to extend their time off from work.
A good example to illustrate klämdag is Ascension Day. The Ascension Day (Kristi himmelfärdsdag), a red day, always falls on a Thursday, so Friday is considered a 'klämdag'. At some companies, this day is completely free of work while in others, employees are entitled to be free provided the company allows it. This also depends. The trade union and the employer may make a local agreement that the employees must be free from work on such days.
Wouldn't it be great if Singapore has a klämdag also? I find it ridiculous to have to come back to work on Friday when Thursday is a public holiday and since Saturday is half-day for most people (and a day off for some), why not just declare Friday a day off work? What do you think?