Sunday, June 24, 2007

Midsommar





Midsommar. This is music (and dance and food and drink and celebration) to Swedish ears.

Inarguably the pinnacle of all Swedish holidays, the Midsummer celebration in Sweden (and other parts of Scandinavia and Europe) continues the theme of marking the various seasons of the year with holidays and long-held traditions (Lucia, Valborg, etc.). This past Friday night, "we" welcomed the coming summer during the longest days of the year. Welcome, at long last, summer.

A very popular question for me during this past year in Sweden was "Were you here for Midsummer last year?" Upon hearing my response, I often received a comment or look of "You don't know Sweden until you've been here for Midsummer." Arriving last year on July 6th, it's been a long wait, but my initiation to Sweden is now complete. Welcome, at long last, summer.

Whether a traditional or modern celebration, Midsummer is best celebrated in the Swedish countryside with family and friends, preferrably near a lake and always with the classic Midsummer meal of pickled herring, new and fresh potatoes with dill, soured cream and raw red onion, some sort of grilled meat or fish and dessert is always Svensk jordgubbar or "Swedish strawberries" with cream. Drink? Well, anyone who's been reading Linköpinglivin this past year with even mild attention can guess that schnapps and other forms of Swedish popular beverages are the drink of choice for Midsummer. Welcome, at long last, summer.

Another important part of the Midsummer celebration (and seen above) is the Midsummerstång or "maypole" which, let's just say, reflects the "fertility" aspect of the Midsummer celebration. Once the maypole is secured, traditional Swedish song and dance emerges leading to all kinds of summer fun, magic, love, dreams, hopes and all things loved during summertime in Sweden. Originally a holiday to commemorate John the Baptist, Midsummer became more pagan in nature sometime during the 1500s when Sweden adopted many of the traditions from another form of the holiday held in Germany. Many myths, legends and stories accompany the Midsummer celebration, all centered on summertime themes of agricultural prosperity, rest and renewal and dreams of future love and matrimony. Welcome, at long last, summer.

My first Midsummer was spent with literally thousands of others at a conference appropriately held in the Swedish countryside. As with most of my Swedish experiences this year, my role was more observer than participant, taking pictures and reveling in the moment, often wondering how in the world I got here...

Pictures above:
1. A Midsummerstång covered in leaves as Swedes of all ages enthusiastically do their part to welcome summer.
2. More dancing around the maypole.
3. Another common Midsummer tradition is the floral crown worn by women and some younger boys.
4. Kids make all the holidays in Sweden that much better, even if they have no idea what is going on - in fact, the expression of puzzlement on the kids' faces was often reflected in my own.
5. Good friends' nephew all dressed up in traditional Midsummer attire.

By the way, this time of year in Sweden, there is simply no darkness, just different shades of dusk blue. As I look out my northern-facing apartment window, I see the sun go down on the left side around 11:00pm and rise on the right side around 3:00am. In between, just a soft blue horizon awaiting the return of daytime. I haven't seen nighttime pitch black in over a month. No wonder we celebrate this time of year. Sweden is so cool.

Welcome, at long last, beloved Swedish summer.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can't believe it! You didn't even mention "små grodorna" in your midsummer entry!!!
"Små grodorna" (Little frogs)is a song that we sing while dancing around the maypole. It goes like this:

Little frogs, little frogs
How fun they are to watch
Little frogs, little frogs
How fun they are to watch
(everyone walk around in a circle holding hands)

no ears, no ears,
no tales they have
no ears, no ears,
no tailes they have
(everyone put their hands where the ears or the tailes should have been.... there's a picture of "the ear part" in the blog)

kowack kwack kwack kowack kwack kwack....
(Everyoune jump around the maypole sounding like frogs.... :D)

Kerstin said...

I just celebrated my first midsummer in Sweden in ten years after having moved back from Tacoma, WA with my US born husband and kids. I am myself Swedish, but lived there for the past ten years. I have read your blog for a while now and find it interesting since I am Swedish by birth, but have lived in the U.S. as well.
We all danced to the little frog song on midsummer eve and that was an experience for my husband....
I hope you have a great summer!
Kerstin in Linköping

Todd said...

This is quite a funny coincidence actually, as my friends and I did very similar things to celebrate Midsommar. While the official date was June 21, most of the celebration was held off until June 24th...which just happens to be the birthday of this blogger's brother.

1. Like you, I celebrated this day with friends near the ocean with a traditional meal of BBQ hamburgers and hot dogs. Our traditional dessert this year was birthday cake...didn’t realize that this birthday cake was suppose to be thrown at each other, but I guess that’s the tradition. And we may or may not have celebrated with "traditional" drink for 5-6 hours after that meal.

2. Like you, we celebrated John the Baptist by dancing around the maypole...and by maypole, I mean bar. If only I could leave pictures as part of my comments. Just imagine 11 people in a conga line doing the limbo. Before too long, those 11 people grew to about 50.

3. And like you, many myths and legends came out of this celebration. Some are true, some are not true and some are REALLY not true (despite what people and pictures might say!)

Wish you were there for the big 3-1.