Swedish Midsummer: herring, frog dance and schnapps

If you ever find yourself in Sweden in the last Friday of June, then you are bound to encounter Midsummer: a celebration where Swedes worship the sun. It is the longest day of the year for the Swedes, and so after a long cold sunless winter they are ready to embrace the sunlight.

Where do you celebrate Swedish Midsummer?

This celebration is usually celebrated amongst friends and family and preferably in the countryside (especially if someone has a summer cottage) and if not, a backyard or balcony is a perfectly suitable location. From my understanding, it has to be somewhere in the outdoors. Midsummer is very family orientated. After all, it is a celebration to worship the sun and outdoors and then procreate.

Activities during Swedish Midsummer

At the start of the day the females (young and old) pick flowers to make their flower crowns, whilst the males cool the beers and help the females collect birch tree branches and flowers to dress the Midsummer pole.

Food and drinks during Swedish Midsummer?

During the day special small potatoes, herring and strawberries are customary foods to be consumed on Midsummer. A glass or two of schnapps is served with the herring, along with singing traditional Swedish schnapps songs. With a belly full of delicious food and alcohol, the Swedes are ready to erect the Midsummer pole and sing and dance. The pole symbolises procreation (I’ll let you look at the photos and figure it out). Midsummer Swedes sing and dance around the pole. A dance that will always be performed is Små grodorna (The Little Frogs). Both adults and children dance to this.

By the evening, it’s time to eat a big buffet of food, followed by more dancing. Traditionally, before going to bed girls and young women pick seven different types flowers and lay them under their pillow and their future husband will appear in their dream. While couples attempt to procreate…

I celebrated Midsummer Day at an open air museum called Jamtli in Östersund. It cost us 70 SEK (EUR 8) each and it let us observe the local Swedish people in their traditional Midsummer clothing and participate in the activities.

As soon as we entered Jamtli, we saw everyone wearing flower crowns – something that we wanted to wear to so we could look like the locals. We ran straight to the flower crown making table but were clueless on how to make one. Observe and ask a local how to make a flower crown – that’s how we made ours. It was a fun activity and also a little challenge as we wanted to make the perfect crown. If we wanted more flowers we could pick whatever flowers or greenery we found in Jamtli. Once we made our beautiful flower crowns we were ready to watch the Swedes in their traditional Midsummer outfits dancing to the live folk music.

By mid afternoon, it was time to raise the Midsummer pole. A group of ordinary Swedish men from the crowd worked together to erect the pole. Then it was time to hold hands, sing and dance around the Midsummer pole. I was even more clueless to this charade. I held a stranger’s hand and was sandwiched in between Swedes that I had never met before. I was ready to dance around the pole of procreation.

Photo credit: Reinoud Haisma

Not knowing any of the dances or songs, I tried to follow the local that was in front, behind or on the side of me but were always a few seconds too late! There were a few occasions where I almost tripped over someone. After half an hour of dancing it was time for photos and for the locals to mingle with each other.

It was a fun event and if you ever find yourself in Sweden during this time, I would recommend it because it’s a great way to watch Swedish people enjoying the sunshine.

Have you celebrated Swedish Midsummer?


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