If you ask a Swede what their favourite holiday is, they would probably find it hard to choose between Christmas Eve and Midsummer’s Eve. Midsummer is a magical time in Sweden – at least, that’s how most people imagine it to be. The sun is shining, they escape to their summer cottages and have a wonderful time dancing around a maypole with their families.
OK… so it very often rains, too much alcohol and herring are consumed, and old family wars might break out… Yet it is still a magical holiday.
The tradition of Midsummer celebrations goes back to pre-Christian times as a way of welcoming in the summer and celebrating fertility. Just look at the maypole and you’ll see what I mean.
Photo: www.imagebank.se Fredrik Sweger, Lou B/Fredrik Sweger and the Swedish Institute
The maypoles are dressed with leaves and flowers and raised, ready for people to dance around, accompanied by live folk musicians. One of my favourites is the song ‘Little Frogs’ – where you dance around the pole pretending to be a frog (jumping on your haunches while making silly hand gestures).
After this, you eat herring (if you like it – I don’t), new potatoes and, of course, lots of strawberries and cream. The Swedes tend to consume lots of alcohol, so that schnapps drinking songs can be heard long into the night.
Midsummer’s Eve falls around the longest night of the year, so that it hardly every gets dark. The sun may dip down onto the horizon like a golden or bright orange eye, only to rise again fairly soon after.
What better way to celebrate balmy days and long light nights than with flowers, song and food?
For more stories, visit That’s My World!
Today is the day of Santa Lucia – and Sweden is full of young girls with fire in their hair, who go round singing beautiful Lucia songs together with an entourage of handmaidens and Santa’s helpers.
The girl who is Lucia has real burning candles in her hair as she leads a procession of young women (and even boys these days, of course) bearing candles. They sing Lucia songs in Swedish – but apparently based on the Neapolitan song of Sankta Lucia, which the Scandinavian tradition is based upon.
There are several different legends about Lucia. Everyone agrees that she was a young girl living in Sicily in about 300 AD. Some say that she hid persecuted Christians and was burned at the stake for helping them. However, the fire refused to burn her and she ended up having her throat slit. Yes – these legends are a bit gory!
Other stories say that she fell in love with a young man who spurned her. So, in a (foolish, in my opinion) act of unrequited love, she is said to have cut out her own eyes and sent them to the man she loved. A rather strange way of declaring undying love! But as they say, love is blind…
Yet other stories say that Lucia was Adam’s first wife, who consorted (great word!) with Lucifer.
A more likely story is that in the Julian calendar, December 13th was the longest night of the year and people in the olden days believed that evil spirits were abroad then, so they burned lots of fires to keep the spirits at bay.
Whatever the origins, this Italian saint is now the Scandinavian symbolic figure: the bringer of light. It’s all about bringing light to the darkness of winter, of bringing warmth into the cold.
And, of course, it’s all about food and drink! This is the time when Swedes go mad in the kitchen and bake up storms of gingerbread and Lucia buns – more commonly called, Lucia cats (lussekatter in Swedish). These are saffron-flavoured sweet buns shaped like curled up cats with raisins for eyes. You eat these morning, noon and night – washed down with coffee or glögg. Glögg is like mulled wine spiced with cinammon sticks and cloves. You put raisins and almonds in a small cup and then fill up with glögg – and drink. You then use dainty little teaspoons to eat up the wine-soaked raisins and almonds!
And, now – if you’ll excuse me. I can hear a Lucia cat meowing to me from the kitchen!
You live in the zoo!
You look like a monkey…
And you smell like one too!
By the time you get to read this, my little anklebiters will probably have ‘woken’ me up (I’ll be lying in bed, pretending to sleep) with that sweet little birthday song, some home-made birthday cards, and (if Sir Pe has picked up all those hints in the form of e-mails, notes and messages) a couple of wrapped up books to savour.
It is Swedish tradition to wake up the birthday person (child or adult) with presents, candles and birthday cake. That’s right – you have to eat cake for breakfast! We don’t usually follow this tradition although last year, I had ice cream with chocolate sauce and blueberries for breakfast!
But – if I were to have some cake – what kind would it be, do you think?
I think that all those with dentist-phobia (like myself) would like to send me a cake with a bite in revenge for my horrifying dentist stories.
To tell you the ‘tooth’, I wouldn’t look this gift horse in the mouth!
And from all those who have been appalled or amused by my sewing mishaps, I might received something a along these lines…
Sew…what do you think? Too good to eat? (So, that’s what needle and thread looks like…)
I have to confess, though, that I do have a weakness for chocolate, especially dark chocolate. Wouldn’t it be great if a big refrigerated truck drew up outside the house and delivered this eye-opening sculpture – made out of chocolate?
When 900 years you reach, look as good, you will not.