Midsommar – Celebrating the Summer Solstice
If there’s anything that can compete in importance with the traditions of Christmas for a Swede, it’s probably midsommar, a tradition we’ve kept since before the Christianization of Sweden.
Midsommar occurs on the Saturday closest to the summer solstice, i.e. between June 20 and June 26. Like most Swedish holidays, however, it’s the preceding eve that’s mostly celebrated, midsommarafton.
Typical activities include decorating and raising a maypole (midsommarstång or majstång). Add someone playing an accordion or a violin, or even just vocals, and both children and grown-ups will take each other’s hands and start dancing around the pole. Okay, maybe some of the grown-ups first need a shot of snaps or two.
If you’ve heard about the 2019 horror movie and feel a bit suspicious of this behaviour, any fear will fade away as the people around you start the traditional dances that include mimicking a frog (Små grodorna), pointing out who is mummy’s little piglet (Morsgrisar är vi allihopa), and then running around singing about crows and pretend-falling on the ground (Prästens lilla kråka). In fact, the only spooky place to be this time of year in Sweden, is in a city or a town, as all Swedes will have gone out to the countryside and urban places become pretty desolate.
The dress code for midsummer celebrations is any kind of summery clothing accompanied with a crown made of flowers.
Another midsummer tradition is to pick seven different flowers and put them under the pillow, which will let you dream about your future partner, in case you’re curious to find out who that might be.
An old tradition also claims that you need to jump over seven gärdsgårdar (a type of fence) in order to dream of your future love.
Just like with Christmas and Easter, our favorite type of meal is a smörgåsbord. The midsummer version includes different kinds of sill (herring), sour cream with chives and the first, tiny potatoes of the season. For dessert, there will be a cake made of sponge cake and a filling of vanilla cream and strawberries and decorated with cream and more strawberries.