Summer is different in Sweden. It’s short, only fully ripening in June, which is why it’s the most important time of the year. In the north the sun never sets. Midsummer, falling somewhere in the third week of June is a celebration of the season and is without a doubt the most important holiday of the year.
The Swedes pride themselves on being in tune with nature. Sweden, after all, is home to more than 24,000 islands and as soon as the summer holidays start everyone heads out of the city to eat, drink and be merry in the countryside. Midsummer marks the beginning of the summer holidays and an age-old tradition from centuries past. This year Midsummer falls on June 24th and 25th, leaving just enough time to find flights to Stockholm for the festivities.
Maypoles & Dances
The maypole, no doubt taken from Germany, is an essential part of the Midsummer celebrations. Starting on Friday afternoon, Swedes begin preparing for Midsummer by collecting wild flowers and making wreaths to put on the maypole and in all the girl’s hair. The pole is set up in the middle of an open field and the traditional dances begin! Round and round, young and old, it’s all about keeping the folklore alive for the next generation.
Of course no Swedish festival is complete without food and drink. The traditional fare are boiled new potatoes and pickled herring with fresh chives, sour cream and red onion. Grilled meat usually follows and then dessert, a cream caked topped with the first fruits of the summer, strawberries. As for drinks, it’s no secret that Swedes love their beer and their schnapps, accompanied with singsong and good wishes for the rest of summer. After the meal, dancing parties in fields, cottages and the local pubs follow until late into the morning.
Mystery & Magic
Midsummer is based on tradition. Young women are supposed to pick seven different types of flowers before midnight and lay them under their pillows. At night, their future husbands will appear to them in their dreams. Midsummer is believed to be the most magical time of the year. In the past many believed that herbs picked on Midsummer night were stronger than usual or that the fresh water from springs would bring a long and healthy life. Greenery and tree boughs placed on houses and barns were also thought to bring luck and fortune.
Where will you celebrate Midsummer this year? How do you celebrate the summer season?
Imgs: jenschapter3, Hakan Dahlstrom, JForth / Flickr cc.