A Beginner’s Guide To Swedish Midsommar

Bengt Nyman, Flickr

Pickled herring, drinking songs, a pole covered in flowers, boiled potatoes, dancing like frogs. Yes, that’s Swedish Midsommar (otherwise known as “Midsummer” in English).

Thanks to Swedish roots around the world and a general love of Scandinavian culture, the popular Swedish holiday – the sun was gone all winter, you would want to celebrate the longest day of the year too – is well known outside of the Nordic lands.

Not well versed on this Swedish celebration? First off, get the basics from this video by the Sweden.se:

Now, let’s get to the important part: celebrating. How are you going to get a Midsummer celebration going if you’re not in Sweden? Easy. Follow these simple steps.

Round up a few friends that like to eat and drink.
This will probably be your easiest task.

Find a long table.
Midsummer dinner tends to be served as a sit down meal complete with a nice tablecloth, napkins and real silverware. This is not your average American BBQ.

Make a midsummer pole.
If you don’t have the manpower to hoist up a long one, construct a smaller makeshift one.

Dance around said midsummer pole.
Dancing is a precursor to eating.

Track down some pickled herring.
It’s not Swedish Midsummer without it.

Serve Aquavit.
Again, you can’t call it Swedish Midsummer if you don’t have the classic drink.

Make a dessert that involves fresh berries.
Preferably strawberries and ideally in cake format.

Eat and drink late into the night/early morning.
The sun isn’t really going to ever set after all.

A few Swedish inspired Midsummer recipes to get you started:
Gin + Aquavit Cocktail
Matjessil Salad
New Potatoes with Dill Butter
Pickled Mustard Herring

Glad Midsommar!

Sweden in Midsommar: From traditional to contemporary

Our hearts are still in Stockholm this week, neck deep in the celebration of one of Scandinavia’s biggest holidays: Midsommar. In case you missed it earlier, Midsommar is the celebration of the longest day of the year in these high latitudes, a time when the sun only sets for three hours a night and when Stockholm is most appreciable.

From a local’s perspective, Midsommar is often spent with the family and friends, most often in a small beach house in the outskirts of Stockholm or out in the geologically diverse archipelago.

Some of those that remain in the city pilgrimage to Skansen for Midsommar Eve, an open air museum not unlike Greenfield Village or Colonial Williamsburg. Hosting a full range of historical Swedish architecture, characters and foodstuffs, Skansen throws the biggest celebration in the city during the day of Midsommar Eve, all culminating in the traditional hoisting of the maypole around which thousands of visitors can dance. Admission is around 18USD.

In parallel, guests can roam the sprawling museum campus, picking flowers for Midsommar garlands, gobbling up meatballs and herring or gawking at the hundreds of traditionally dressed workers strolling about. Family time is important at Skansen, and the hours spent here learning about Swedish culture and tradition are an excellent way to spend the day, regardless of the holiday.

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As with any social experience, drinks and dancing also have a special role in Midsommar festivities. On the eve of the holiday when the children have gone to bed and the sun is still out, adults drink late into the night, fortifying themselves for a long weekend of family fun and socialization.

For those that have gone into the islands to party, Sandhamn is the place to be. A few hours by ferry outside of Stockholm, the island is a nexus for young Swedes in full-on celebration mode for the long weekend. As the population balloons, many choose to camp on the beach after all night festivities, and the air takes on a buzz of drunken, joyous happiness similar to the full moon parties well known in Thailand.

The party rages forth in Stockholm as well, with many social circles hosting private parties at decked out residences across the city. Many clubs and restaurants stay open for the holiday, and one of the biggest places to celebrate is in the Berns Hotel Salon, just next to and behind the Grand Hotel in the center of Stockholm. With a tall, vaulted ceiling, a huge dining area and several outdoor terraces, Berns is one of the places to be on Midsommar Eve (and they know it,) so get here early and be prepared to spend a few extra dollars for drinks. Though it’ll be expensive, the scenery and the setting are worth every crown.

Traditional as it might be, Midsommar thus has a streak of unbridled celebration that any common visitor can daftly take part in. For a first time visitor, Skansen is a good bet for a crash course in traditional culture, eating and drinking. If your budget and schedule don’t match up though, a good bottle of whiskey and a few new friends out on the sunny streets of Stockholm will do the trick.

Note, some logistical help in executing this trip came from the Sweden tourism board. Itineraries and adventures were our own creation.

A trip through Sweden’s Midsommar festival

In ten short hours I have forgotten Chicago. Sitting outside of Hotel Skepshollmenn on the sprawling, gravel terrace, the pastel, Scandinavian sun reflects off of the yellow building walls and tall, leafy trees rustle in the polite sea breeze. It’s hard to believe that we’ve so fluidly escaped the Midwest heat, let alone that we’re in the center of the largest city in Sweden.

Here in Stockholm it’s Midsommar, the traditional celebration of the longest day of the year, a time when hard-working residents take to their summer cottages out on the archipelago, when the city adopts a quiet, astute functionality and grace. Though the date changes every year, the festival is always held on the weekend closest to the solstice; this year it’s June 24-27.

Volumes of debate swirl around when the best time of the year is to visit Scandinavia. It goes without saying that summer is the best season in which to make your way (as hotel and airline prices will surely reflect,) but around Midsommar, which is celebrated differently in each Scandinavian nation, demand tapers in. With so many residents and workers away for the holiday, much of Stockholm slows down, some of the unique, boutique stores and restaurants button up and the access to the residential, city culture is somewhat restricted.

As a result, visitors might see a dip in hotel prices and other associated costs during the weekend of Midsommar — at the expense of missing out on some of the more organic aspects of Stockholm.

As in any metropolis, however, city life does move on. Gamla stan, the old town and tourist center of the city, becomes the hub of activity, with visitors and the few remaining workers sifting through Irish bars, souvenir shops and cafes. Museums and attractions including the open air Skansen and the new Fotografiska still stay open, and there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the traditional Midsommar aquavit and pickled herring across the city.

For residents, however, Midsommar is a time for celebration, relaxation and socialization. Observance ranges from traditional to hedonistic (which we’ll get to later) but the underlying theme is all the same: visit with family and friends and enjoy the long happy weekend.

Later this week we’ll get to the particularities of Midsommar celebration and the practicality of designing your own trip. We hope that you enjoy the trip.

Note, some logistical help in executing this trip came from the Sweden tourism board. Itineraries and adventures were our own creation.

Midsommar: The very best time to visit Stockholm

Deep in the lowest latitudes of the Earth’s extremities, the far reaches of the planet where temperatures begin to plunge and where human populations drop precipitously, seasons have deeper meanings. Spring, Winter and Fall are plain, solid facts of life, the cold months during which fires are built, hard work is complete and the foundation of the year is laid. These are the months where Lyle and Scott sweaters are worn proudly by light skinned Swedes, where bicycles are ridden furiously through the blinding snow, puddle jumping from one warm abode to the next, conserving every last bit of warmth.

It’s preparation in a way, ten long months of good hard work for a two month reward, a swift, vanishing summer than can easily be missed in the blink of an eye. In Sweden, these months are June and July.

Swedes take their summertime very seriously, especially in Stockholm where cooped up urbanites use their stored up vacation to escape from the nation’s bustling, stark capital. Activity hits fever pitch around Midsommar, the traditional festival held once a year celebrating the longest day of the summer, fertility and the general release of energy stored up over the long, winter months. During this time, tempers even out, jovial residents take to the streets and the celebration spills through the country like a tidal wave of happiness, with dinner parties, drinking events and sales unlike any other time of the year.It is inside of this precise window that Sweden is often best to visit. It’s true that not all attractions are open and not all services will be at fever pitch, but the atmosphere, in short, is Godly. From the high, fluffy Atlantic clouds to the clean, bright architecture to the festivals and the sales and the never ending stream of herring and aquavit, Sweden is at its best during summertime festivities, and is a destination unrivaled in aesthetic and experience.

Getting there, however, can be tricky. With limited routes to the Scandinavian nation and demand at a seasonal high, tickets tend to be expensive for travel during summer months. But creative routing, fare sales on SAS and good planning doth an inexpensive trip make, so plan ahead, set up a fare alert and save your allowance for vacation; though Sweden is an expensive country there are plenty of budget options for the savvy traveler.

At the very least, be sure to tune into Gadling’s Midsommar coverage as the summer progresses. We’ve got many more wonderful stories to tell.