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?
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