The midsummer weekend is finally upon us. If you are Swedish or you’re lucky enough to have a Swede, or a few, in your closest circles, the excitement of midsummer can be felt in the air, no matter where in the world you are.
But how confusing can it be to celebrate one of Sweden’s most important holidays if you don’t really know what the holiday is all about? No need to worry, we are here to break midsummer down for you.
Midsummer is traditionally celebrated on a day between June 19 and June 25 (to correspond with the summer solstice). This year, it falls on June 19th, 2020.
Back in the old days, Midsummer was celebrated on June 24, the feast day of St. John the Baptist. The reason for celebrating Midsummer was to “chase out” the dreary winter weather and welcome summer with food, dancing, quite a bit of drinking and good company – a tradition that has continued to this day.
To many Swedes, midsummer is also the very start of their famous month-long summer vacation.
HOW TO CELEBRATE MIDSUMMER
There are plenty of ways to celebrate Midsummer – to make it easier, we came up with a short list of things that are necessary for any good Midsummer celebration. Don’t forget to read our popular Midsummer menu article, complete with recipes.
- SUMMER HOUSES: Midsummer is traditionally celebrated in nature, such as parks, gardens, cottages, and more. The most popular location is at someone’s summer house (also known as a landställe). If you’re a city dweller, we recommend Dalarna or Gothenburg, which are known for their colorful and public Midsummer celebrations.
- FOOD: Midsummer is the perfect chance to enjoy a huge picnic – you’ll typically see different kinds of pickled herring, boiled new potatoes with fresh dill, grilled dishes (like meat, spare rib, or salmon), and garnishes. For dessert, there are small cakes and fresh fruit – including the first strawberries of the season!
- DRINKS: To wash down all of that delicious food, Swedes come prepared: The traditional drinks are either a cold beer or schnapps. This is also the holiday where Swedes drink the most in the entire year.
- THE MAYPOLE: No Midsummer is complete without a maypole. Typically the maypole will be decorated with flowers and greenery, with the Swedes singing and dancing around the pole. One of the more hilarious dances to see are “Små grodorna”, the little frogs, in which the participants jump around and sing like frogs. Yes, adults too. The tradition of the maypole is, as many of the other midsummer traditions, ancient and symbolizes fertility. Not only between a man and a woman in that sense but also the fertility of the earth. And perhaps you already guessed it, the midsummer pole represents the male genital. Yes, Swedes dance around a flower genital pretending to be frogs. Deal with it.
- LEGENDS: Midsummer is a time of mystery and magic. There’s a traditional belief that if a girl picks 7 different flowers during the midsummer night and puts them underneath her pillow, she will dream of her future husband.Legend also has it that the night of midsummer eve is a magical time for love. Although Swedes are usually not the typical spiritual or religious types, many can probably still attest to the magic of midsummer and the ancient traditions that focus on love during this weekend.
In fact, it was up until very recently that the end of March was the period of time where most Swedes were born. Midsummer undoubtedly being the culprit.
How are you planning to celebrate this year’s Midsummer? Share your plans in the comments below!
Featured image: Per Bifrost/imagebank.sweden.se