Straight-up Scandinavia: The quick guide to Swedish midsummer

In a country where it’s dark for about nine months out of twelve, can you really blame the Swedes for making summer solstice one of the most important party days of the year? Midsummer marks the longest day of the year; in many places in Sweden, particularly the north, the sun doesn’t even seem to set. This makes for an ideal party scene, but enjoying it can take some learning. Here is your quick guide to understanding Swedish midsummer and how best to enjoy it.

What it is:
Midsummer festivities are held on the Friday between June 19th and 25th. Basically you are giving a Swedish skål (cheers) to the sun which on official summer solstice makes its longest appearance of the year.

What people do:

For the Swedes, Midsummer is one of the year’s most important celebrations, comparable to New Years and Christmas. Communities will hold traditional Midsummer events which include dancing around a maypole and singing Swedish songs, one of which is called Små Grodorna (Little Frogs) and entails everyone to dance around like a frog while singing the following loosely translated lyrics: “Little frogs are funny to look at/ They don’t have ears or tails.” Who ever said the Swedes didn’t have a sense of humor? Because you’re celebrating the sun, the Swedish countryside is the place to enjoy Midsummer. Most Swedes will choose a country-side location and join their friends in a long night of eating, drinking and merriment.

So about that eating… typical food:
The standard Midsummer dinner table takes the form of a smorgasbord and includes boiled potatoes, all kinds of sill (pickled herring), crispbread, cheeses and usually some other form of fish like salmon. This is all accompanied by a lot of schnapps or brännvin, traditional distilled liquors. If you didn’t like dancing and singing around the maypole, then get ready for the dinner table because each shot of brännvin usually comes with an accompanying chant or rhyme. For dessert you can plan on a lot of fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

What the wear:
For some larger community celebrations, people dress up in traditional Swedish costume. This can be seen in full effect at Stockholm’s open air museum, Skansen. Regular party-goers take the time to make flower garlands to wear in their hair, usually made from daisies and clover.

Most importantly…
If celebrating Swedish midsummer, be prepared to not go to bed. When the sun doesn’t go down, neither do you!

Glad Midsommar!

Winter Solstice in Fairbanks

The Summer Solstice is certainly the most popular of the solstices and deserving of all the bacchanalian festivals celebrating this spectacular day. What’s there not to love about longest day of the year in the middle of summer?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the less enjoyed Winter Solstice marks the longest, darkest night of the year. There’s no reason to hate its arrival, however, especially if you plan to be anywhere near Fairbanks, Alaska on December 21.

Fairbanks Winter Solstice Festival is an annual event which attempts to bring a little sunshine into the lives of the local people with games for the kids, a visit from Santa, live music, and even a fireworks display.

Me? I’ll be waiting until June 21–the longest day of the year–to visit Fairbanks when the weather is warmer and baseball games are played at 10:30 p.m. with only the midnight sun to illuminate the field.

(via Los Angeles Times)

Stonehenge Solstice Celebrations

Broadly speaking, summer solstice — the longest day of the year, in the northern hemisphere, at least — is a time to celebrate the arrival of warm weather; the impending harvest; and — for some — the birds and the bees. Perhaps more than any other place on earth, summer solstice is associated with Stonehenge and Druids.

I don’t know if the all people who celebrate summer solstice at Stonehenge today are Druids — they look a lot the hippies I went to college with — but their celebrations look like fun. Generally speaking, they feature a lot of dancing and singing and didgeridoo’ing and jumping around. There’s some standing around, too, waiting for the sun to rise. It looks something like this:
But it also looks somewhat more peaceful, serene — and even mystical. Here’s a two-part series showing the celebrations. This is probably more what I had in mind when I think “summer solstice” and “Stonehenge.” Part I:
Part II:
Thee guys are definitely NOT Druids — or hippies:

This happens, too — but I don’t know why the revelers need to be naked:
If you put the right kind of music on, the celebration seems more mystical:

I’m not sure how “mystical” the event is, though:
In the end, a lot of people show up — including King Arthur!