Light and warmth, so much needed, and yet not so often experienced in the Nordic part of the world, do deserve to be celebrated in a big style. The Midsummer Eve is that time of the year in Sweden, a festivity par excellence and an epitome of the frolic side of the Swedish lifestyle.
The Midsummer Eve celebrations are deeply rooted in ancient, pagan times, when they marked the longest day of the year – the summer solstice. There is more to it, however. It is a renewed acknowledgement of warmth, nature and fertility. It is also that time of the year when the sun in the north does not set – the light replaces the darkness for a little while!
The fresh burst of summer, the overwhelming warmth and widespread joy are a real promise of an unforgettable time. It is no wonder that, at that time of the year, convoys of cars crawl out of big cities and abandoned city streets gain a spooky look, while the Swedish countryside becomes enriched with thousands of people, singing, dancing and enjoying themselves. Even schools are out!
What happens in Sweden during the Midsummer Eve?
Once Swedes reach their destination and meet up with the other family members and friends (these gatherings are always large), they usually start picking wild flowers for hand-made garlands and maypoles. Maypole is very important in this celebration. After choosing an open spot, they raise the maypole, adorned with wild flower wreaths, and start cheerfully dancing around it, usually dressed in folk costumes.
Traditional Swedish food holds a significant place during the Midsummer Eve celebration. Typical Swedish Smörgåsbord is extremely popular – it is heavy on locally grown food. The Midsummer Eve Smörgåsbord contains culinary delicacies such as pickled herrings, young potatoes with dill, salmon and cheese, all washed down with nubbe, a Swedish version of spiced schnapps. Each schnapps shot requires cheering and singing loud songs everyone knows by heart. Of course, strawberry cake for dessert is a must!
After the delicious lunch, people would either take part in outdoor games or relax in a sauna. The real party with dancing and music starts in the evening. The Midsummer Eve is perfect for romance and rumor has it that almost a regular baby boom in March has a lot to do with it.
There is a nice legend saying that girls and young women should pick seven different flowers and put them under their pillows that night. The man they will marry will appear in their dream.
Welcome the summertime in Sweden and immerse yourself in this intrinsic part of the Swedish culture in June. Renew your bond with nature and experience the rich heritage of Nordic countries. You will most certainly love it. Skål!