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