Last year I celebrated midsummer in Sweden for the first time. What a wonderful party! In Sweden, midsummer is just as important as Christmas . Girls wear flower crowns in their hair and a lot of people wear traditional costumes. The maypole is straightened together with the entire village, after which children and adults dance around it while they sing about frogs.
Midsommar or midsummer
The Swedes celebrate the start of the summer, the time of the solstice, on the Friday that is closest to June 21 (ie the Friday between June 19 and 25). It is a real holiday: just like at Christmas (almost) everyone is home and almost all shops are closed. On midsommarafton or the eve of the midsummer party, the shops and museums close earlier so that everyone has time to prepare the party. Midsummer is mainly celebrated with family or friends. For many Swedes, midsummer is the start of their summer vacation.
If you are in Sweden with midsummer, try to find out in advance where you can attend a traditional midsummer celebration. If you’re lucky, Swedish friends will invite you to this party. I myself was in Mora last year and happened to come by a very authentic midsummer party in one of the neighborhoods. Whoever is in Stockholm may experience the city as ’empty’. Most of them go to their summer house (or that of friends). Yet with midsummer in Stockholm you can also go to Skansen for a traditional celebration.
Under loud encouragement from the public, some strong men (and women) set up the maypole (in Swedish: midsommarstång or majstång). The May tree is a cross-shaped pole that is completely decorated with greenery and ribbons and symbolizes the fertility of the earth. The different villages / neighborhoods sometimes outdo each other with the most beautiful or largest maypole.
Young and old will dance and sing around the maypole. Everyone happily participates. You soon learn the dances. The day before midsummer I had practiced the song Små grodorna on the Inlandsbanan together with some Swedish couples. A moment I will never forget! They taught me the lyrics of the song and the accompanying dance. Imagine: 9 adults who happily jump around like frogs in the aisle of the train. Memorable!
Strawberries and aquavit
Besides the maypole you can also see strawberries (or strawberry cake) popping up everywhere. The Swedes are crazy about these red fruits and eat a lot of them during midsummer. A little later in the evening the aquavit (strong drink) should not be missed. All kinds of traditional Swedish dishes are on the table (lots of vegetables but also potatoes and fish).
Just as traditional as pickled herring and potato salad is the fact that the weather is often less good. The Swedes sometimes laugh that it is just as cold on Christmas as it is on midsummer. A few years ago it was even the reverse and in certain places in the south of Sweden it was warmer at Christmas than on midsummer.
Midsummer is approaching, I thought it would be nice to post a tutorial ‘making a flower wreath’. For this tutorial I asked the help of expert Gillian Lowyck. She brought organic flowers and we had a lot of fun making our own floral wreath.
What do you need to make flower crowns?
Magical flower tape – if you stretch the tape, it will stick.
Rope with a fine metal wire
Flowers and leafs
Good wire cutter
Possibly a water spray to keep the crown ‘fresh’ for a long time
Flower crown tutorial
Start by measuring the ribbon / rope. Take the circumference of your head (also choose how you want to place the crown on your head – on your head or slightly more obliquely like a diadem) and take an extra 10 cm. Make a loop on one side.
Then you make 10 mini-bouquets. Let your creativity run free. Do you want a symmetrical crown or not? Choose a few eye-catchers in every bouquet and make sure there is some stuffing and a bit of green. You bind them together with the magical flower tape.
You can now attach those little bouquets, also with flower tape, to the string that forms the basis for your wreath. Place the bouquet with the flowers towards the loop. Then you place the following bouquet on top in a scaled fashion. Continue this way until you reach the penultimate bouquet.
Maybe you will have make a few extra bouquets. This depends on the length of the rope and the size of the bouquets. You put the last bouquet in the opposite direction so that you can camouflage the stems.
To camouflage the closure of the crown, you can tie a ribbon around it. Ready for the midsummer party!
Since 1935 (with some interruptions) you can go to Allsång på Skansen in Skansen (Stockholm). This music event has also been broadcast on SVT since 1979. Well-known artists do not only bring their own hits, they also sing a song that belongs to the collective Swedish memory. All Swedes know the text by heart. For those who do not know the lyrics, there are lyric-booklets for sale. On TV you get the text at the bottom of your screen.
Already in the early afternoon the Swedes start to come up for a place close to the stage. A little further from the stage, groups of friends and family pick a picnic spots. A unique experience, although at times – even for me – it was a bit too Swedish.
Stockholm i mitt hjärta
The show’s starting tune is ‘Stockholm i mitt hjärta’, a true classic. I can really recommend Allsång på Skansen for those who want to master the Swedish language. Because you can sing along and see the text on TV, you learn how the words are spoken. Singing songs is a good method to learn things anyway.
You not only learn the language but you also get a taste of Swedish culture. Thanks to Allsång på Skansen I got to know songs like ‘Var ska vi sova inatt’, ‘En kväll i juni’ and other classics.
Presentation Allsång på Skansen
Allsång på Skansen in Sweden is one of the best-watched TV programs of the summer. Currently, the presentation is done by Sanna Nielsen, who also took part in the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Undo’ for Sweden. Eurovision Song Contest winner Måns Zelmerlöw also presented the program.