Sunday, June 24, 2007
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...
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.