Before people started semi-ironically wearing flower crowns to Coachella; before, even, people wore them in earnest to Woodstock, there was Sweden’s Midsummer.
Taking place on a Friday between 19 and 25 June, Midsummer (Midsommar) is the longest night of the year and the Swedish celebration of the summer season. Its origins lie in Sweden’s agricultural roots: it was a time to welcome the months of fertility ahead.
Building on that, Midsummer has long been tethered to the idea of young women finding their husbands. On their way home after celebrating, girls are meant to pick seven different flowers and put them under their pillows before bed, allowing their husband to come to them in their dreams. Alternatively, girls eat salted porridge so that their husbands will bring them water in their dreams. Apparently there are loads of dream husbands in Sweden. Rest of the world: take note.
Most Swedes like to celebrate Midsummer in the countryside, so the cities begin emptying out the day before. Large groups gather to enjoy each other’s company, families and friends alike. It’s traditional to make flower garlands, which are brought by procession to place on the Maypole, or Midsummer Pole (Midsommarstågen). This pole is erected in an open space and is the centre of the day’s festivities.
There are beloved dances & songs around the Maypole in which all participate. While, yes, Midsummer does have an agrarian-bent to it, the Swedes aren’t above a bit of weird whimsy now and then: a favourite tune is one in which all the participants sing about, then proceed to dance like, frogs. Ribbit!
Many people – men and women alike, regardless of age – wear flowers crowns during this time. Flower crowns have long been a symbol of rebirth and fertility, so the wearing of them is connected to the essence of the holiday.
The day of Maypole fun is followed by food. Ah the food. Typical Swedish fare includes pickled herring, boiled potatoes with herbed sour cream and a roasted meat. For dessert: fresh strawberries and cream (!). No Swedish meal would be complete without beer and schnapps, which flow all night. Sounds pretty ideal.
Once everyone is full and happy, some choose to go out dancing or partying while others just revel in the good company. The sun won’t be going down for quite some time – better make a night of it!
Do you have any special Midsummer traditions? Tell us about them!