How to celebrate midsummer in Sweden | Undutchables

How to celebrate Midsummer in Sweden

Categorie: Cultural Guest article

MIDSUMMER IN SWEDEN

Nowhere more than in Scandinavia is the coming of midsummer more important, more cherished, more symbolic. And Sweden celebrates it quite superbly.

This winter was mild with very little snow, but Sweden can easily labour under snow for five or six months in succession, as far south as Stockholm but particularly in the far north. Such winters are thrilling, taxing, invigorating, exhausting. But as a Norwegian friend told me, Scandinavians store up all their energy in the winter by lying low and resting through the dark days, in order to expend it with utter abandon throughout the summer. And Midsummer is the high point of this.

Midsummer Sweden

It takes what can be a very sophisticated, technologically advanced country back to its rural roots, revellers donning traditional Swedish dress, their hair entwined with garlands of wild flowers and throwing caution to the wind as they dance around the midsommarstång (maypole). Said maypole is often thought to be a symbol of fertility, though opinions vary as to whether Midsummer is pagan or not, with many deriving its origins back to a Christian celebration of John the Baptist. Perhaps its roots matter less than its wonderful ability to bring people together with a strong sense of community and celebration which is open to newcomers too. Simply find your local Midsummer happening in your area and you can pass many a happy hour watching a veritable feast of tireless dancing, relaxed socialising and gorging on a whole array of very Swedish food – a lavish selection of salmon smoked or cured (gravlax), herring (sill), caked bedecked with strawberries, all washed down with potent shots of aquavit. Or you could venture into the Dalarna region, which holds claim to the largest Midsummer gathering in Sammilsdal. Or gather at Skansen, Stockholm’s fabulous open-air museum – there will be no maypole this year owing to the Covid situation, but the atmosphere will still be wonderful.

My own memories of Swedish Midsummers are magical. We were welcomed by our Swedish neighbours and given the considerable challenge of creating the midsommarstång from scratch with little more than an hour’s notice. This saw us feverishly gathering wild flowers, collecting roses from the waterside and building a makeshift pole from a garden broom and two bicycle wheels. We had little idea of what look we were aiming for, but felt exhilarated to be included in the endeavour, our work of hasty art meeting with amusement and a slightly measured response from our fellow Swedish partygoers. The great leveller was our then 7 year old son playing on his trumpet the inimitable Små grodorna (Little Frogs), a song which incites grown adults and children alike to dance around the maypole, leaping and miming frogs. It was the most touching of scenes, as we pranced and laughed, united in the dizzying spirit of this celebration of light.

“The rather icy Swedes and their decidedly aloof appraisal of our efforts with the pole suddenly melted into full-blooded jollity, participation and timeless harking back to the mores of childhood. So a quorum of well-coiffed blonds and their unwitting English accomplices for the day rotated around the pole, cackling frog-like and assuming amphibious pose, while Tom gave a very commendable rendition of the tune. This was a picture of abandon, encapsulating the Swedish love of celebrating the country’s proximity to nature and adoration of things unfettered and primal.” (excerpt from So Sweden – Living Differently)

Midsummer seems surreal, encapsulating as it does Sweden’s ability to disobey the rules of more southerly climes in remaining light all night! It is like being caught in a time bubble, the light remaining whatever time your watch shows, dimming ever so slightly around perhaps one in the morning before rising again for another day. Evidence of the sheer force of nature which is so elemental in Sweden – and can catch you out. The light may be timeless, but the temperature can plummet, so make sure you’re well dressed for your revellings. That thick down winter coat may be your best friend at midnight.

So Sweden photo Alison for midsummer

Alison Allfrey is a British writer, linguist and communications consultant who lived in Stockholm from 2012 to 2015. She published So Sweden – Living Differently, a memoir of her time in Sweden and inspiration for ex-pats living there in October 2019, available on Amazon as below. She has also had articles published about Sweden in The Local (thelocal.se), Nordic Style Magazine, Sverige Magasinet and fika-online.com. Alison lives with her family near Winchester in the UK. She is an avid traveller and loves exploring other cultures.

Interested in the book, click here to on Amazon or it is also available at The English Bookstore, Södermannag 22, Södermalm, Stockholm

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