Happy Midsummer everyone!
Well, some of you might be unfamiliar with this because it’s a holiday typical of Northern Europe. Since I am getting acquainted with the Swedish culture, I felt like writing about this day which is important to Swedes as much as Christmas is.
To be exact, today is Midsummer’s Eve and tomorrow is Midsummer’s Day (in Swedish, midsommarafton and midsommardagen respectively). Midsummer always falls on a day between the 19th and 25th of June. It’s a celebration for all the family and it happens in the countryside, so cities during this period are usually fairly deserted.
The origins of this feast are very old and pagan, dating back to before Christianity. As the name denotes, it marks the summer solstice but in ancient times, it was also a celebration of fertility.
Whether it’s a symbol of fertility or of the world’s axis it is still debatable, but the maypole (midsommarstång or majstång) is central to this celebration. The maypole is traditionally constructed and erected by men, while women collect flowers and greenery to decorate it. Such greenery is also used to decorate houses, while ladies make wreaths for themselves and the kids. After the maypole is up, people gather in a circle around it and dance and sing traditional songs, such as in the below video.
Food is naturally important in every celebration. For Midsummer’s dinner, Swedes typically prepare pickled herring accompanied by boiled potatoes seasoned with dill, chives and sour cream. They continue with barbequed food and finish off with fresh strawberry with cream. Of course, everything is washed down with litres of alcohol – beer, vodka or schnapps. All of this is done while singing more songs!
Legend has it that if girls pick seven different types of flowers and place them under their pillows, that night they will dream of their future husband. Isn’t that sweet?
I bet that after reading and watching, you’ll dream of frolicking in green fields with flowers in your head. I myself can’t wait to visit Sweden during this period, to enjoy the nature in summer and why not, maybe take part in the dances!
To conclude, check out some typical songs of the Swedish Midsummer:
This is the most popular song for singing around the maypole.
And this is a typical song sung at the dinner table.
Enjoy and once again, Glad Midsommar (Happy Midsummer)!
(A big thanks goes to Matt for checking and verifying what I wrote, plus suggesting the songs!)