A midsummer´s tale

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I can´t be a Swedish blogger and not write about Midsummer! It´s THE biggest holiday in the year, and should rightfully be our National Day! (Now it´s June 6 and noone really knows why…I´ve had to look it up several times to explain it to friends abroad). Midsummer is a national phenomena and if you have ever been in Sweden on this date you know it.

It´s celebrated on the Friday closest to the 21st of June (Midsummers Eve) which is summer solstice. This year it was on June 22. In all Swedish movies and tv-dramas through the decades this day will be described as a long sunny day followed by a long magical night. In reality it usually rains more or less all day. But for some reason we all collectively seem to remember just those few Midsummers Eves that were perfect.

Look, surprise, surprise – rainy streets in my neighborhood on Midsummer!

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If you are a tourist you will find that on the Thursday just before Midsummers Eve, all Stockholmers leave the city. By boat, car, ferry, bike or train – we will do whatever it takes to go out into the country or archipelago to spend our Midsummer.

For the last two years I’ve spent the weekend in the city with my son, and we find it quite relaxing. No outdoorsy toilets (that seems to be part of all summerhouses), no cars and no people – all buses will arrive on time for once and the only qeue is at the entrance of Skansen (our outdoor museum) where the traditions are kept alive by thousands of tourists.

Son was intrigued to celebrate Midsummer at Skansen, so we took a picnic basket and went along last year. We had a blast listening to the guides trying to decipher ancient Midsummer-songs and games for the tourists who frankly looked bewildered. I don’t blame them, some of these traditional games and songs are VERY strange, but that is tradition for you, right?

As we sing and dance we go around in big circles around the Midsummer-pole, which is a pole or cross with two big circles. With just a tiny fraction of imagination it can be an ancient fertility-symbol and if it is a female or a male symbol – its up to you!

One of the more popular is “Little frogs” and it involves jumping up and down with your hands waving stuck in your ears and singing about being a mamas boy. You get the picture, right? Except the guide translated the text “a boy who fancies his mother” and free-spirited that we are, we are not THAT free… I am sure some of the visitors were scarred for life:)

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If you are a tourist in Stockholm around Midsummer and you are not invited along to a Swedish celebration, Skansen is the next best thing. I would also suggest having a meal there, even though its over-priced and touristy. You will have a really hard time finding even a McDonalds open on Midsummer in Stockholm…

IF on the other hand you are invited to a Swedish Midsummer-party, don’t be surprised if you are expected to take a naked sauna-bath or drink enormous amounts of alcohol. It is also a part of Midsummer, and so is sill (pickled herring) and strawberry cake (not at the same time though).

For some reason I can´t find any photos from past Midsummers…

On Midsummer´s Day we all have bad hangovers, eat pizza and regret A LOT. There is a reason we talk about Midsummer-kids, children born 9 months after Midsummer´s Eve…(its in March if you can’t be bothered to count, and the hospitals are crowded around that time. I know, my baby was born on March 13.)

So that was my guide to a Swedish Midsummer, and reading back I admit its weird. But also quite fun and we have celebrated it for a thousand years. Yes, the vikings did too – and one of the oldest scriptures mentioning the holiday was a law from a king who decided to let the people have free beer on Midsummer. So I guess we are just doing it the old-fashioned way! Apart from the pizza of course.

 

 

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