Imagine eating lunch in the dark in January! In some parts of Sweden, the sun doesn’t rise all winter. And winter lasts a LONG time in Sweden since it’s so far north, and parts of it are even above the Arctic Circle.
That’s why Midsummer is the second largest celebration in Sweden, right behind Christmas.
Midsummer is an ancient pagan tradition celebrated around the world as a time of welcoming back the sun after a long winter. It occurs 6 months after the midwinter celebration we know as Christmas.
And it’s a huge party because folks are excited to see the sun again!
The arrival of summer in Sweden is celebrated with dancing, flowers, music, and of course, food.
Way back in 1952, the Swedish Parliament voted that Midsummer should be celebrated on a weekend. That means the party falls on the Friday before the summer solstice, or somewhere between June 20th and 26th.
But no matter what day or evening, Swedes make it a great festival. And the best part is it’s held outside in the country or in an open-air park, which makes it a perfect time to get out and enjoy nature!
The festivities begin with setting up a huge maypole, or Midsummer Pole covered in flowers and green branches plus long ribbons.
This tradition actually began in Germany and was celebrated on May 1st, but because spring and summer take their time getting to Sweden, there aren’t a lot of flowers and greenery to be found!
So the maypole event was moved to Midsummer and renamed the Midsommerstang.
During the party, dancers move around the midsummer pole, each holding onto a ribbon. As they dance in a pattern on the ground, the ribbon gets woven around the pole until it makes a beautiful pattern, too!
Another tradition of Midsummer is flower-picking. But not for the pole.
Young men and women go about and pick 7 different flower blossoms. They put the bouquet under their pillow on Midsummer Eve. The legend claims their future spouse will appear in their dreams!
Most of the people who attend the Midsummer celebration wear the traditional clothing of their region and sing traditional songs including one about frogs.
The lyrics include the line “the little frogs are funny to observe” and are sung while the dancers hop around the midsummer pole like, well, little frogs! The dance is called the Sma Grodorna.
There are plenty of other activities at Midsummer such as ring dances and fun games and weaving flowers into garlands to wear on your head.
Folks also eat plenty of traditional foods at Midsummer including herring, smoked salmon, eggs, meatballs, potatoes, cheese pie, and strawberries all arranged in a smorgasbord.
You can enjoy the tastes of Sweden no matter what time of year when you try our Sweden box from eat2explore!