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.