5 Steps to Take to Prepare for Swedish Midsummer
This June, I was able to experience my first Swedish Midsummer, which I didn’t know was happening until the day before when my host parents told me. The holiday is huge there–like right up there with Christmas. Swedes get right back to their roots, celebrating with traditions from hundreds of years ago.
Unfortunately, I was not in my most chipper mood, as my host parents had had a party the night before in preparation, which lasted until the sun came up (which in southern Sweden is not too late, as it only gets dark from like 11 p.m to 4 a.m each night, but still). I joined in the party festivities with them but they, however, were their usual lively and social selves the next day. (Do Europeans not experience hangovers?)
So, if when you hear the words “Midsummer in Sweden” you think of very blond children in flower crowns running barefoot, you are in fact correct! But there’s a little more to it. MidSummer falls on a Friday between June 19th and 25th and is the time to welcome in the season of summer and fertility. It is often looked at as a “magical time for love” (hubbah-hubbah).
It is best celebrated traditionally in the countryside, where as big cities like Stockholm tend to clear out as its inhabitants run for the hills (and the trees, and the nature). I was lucky enough to celebrate my first Swedish Midsummer in the southern countryside with real Swedes, since my host-dad is Swedish. The day consisted of copious amounts of food, alcohol, and music.
To enjoy your first Swedish MidSummer, follow these steps:
1) Step 1: Become one with nature.
Midsummer is the time to be green. Things are adorned with birch branches for good luck and people MAKE their own flower crowns, like from real branches and flowers, no Snapchat filter/Coachella garb here.
2) Step 2: Dust off your dancing shoes
Midsummer where I was this year had a live band, and everyone gathered around the traditional Swedish fertility symbol to do some silly dancing to various Swedish songs that don’t seem to make any sense. Most notably is Små Grodorna (Small Frogs) where embarrassed adults and excited children dance and hop around pretending to be frogs.
3) Step 3: Don’t eat breakfast in order to save room for the day.
Can you say nomz? During lunchtime at Midsummer, we had a traditional Swedish strawberry cake with coffee and tea. Swedish families will make their own strawberry cake, usually consisting of layers of sponge cake, whipped cream, and delicious fresh strawberries. The house where I was, ended up having four strawberry cakes, all brought by different celebratin’ Swedes!
For dinner, as per Swedish tradition, we had potatoes and dill (Swedes are apparently huge on potatoes), cheese, Swedish meatballs, and different kinds of pickled herring in a variety of sauces.
4) Step 4: Tune up your vocal cords.
After dinner, our hosts provided us with song books that had the lyrics and titles to several songs as well as the tune they were supposed to be sung in. The only English one was “What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor,” so I couldn’t participate much, which was good because the table did not have to be punished with my vocal chords.
5) Step 5: Get drunk.
Each song was followed by a shot, poured by our host. The shots varied, but the most notable one was probably the homemade Aquavit– a spirit flavored with anice and fennel so that it tasted like licorice.
And those are the five steps to prepare you for a Swedish Midsummer! The downpour started in the middle of dinner and we had to set up a tent to keep the party going. Soon after, however, we were off to rest up after a long day of kicking it with Swedes. Have any of you ever gone to Sweden for Midsummer or unknowingly ended up in a foreign country during their biggest holiday?