Michelleraponi (CC0), Pixabay

Scandinavia has long, dark winters. As such, the arrival of summer is a much-anticipated event. It is really a big deal in many Nordic countries because the season of cold is over. As such, it is one of the most important holidays in some parts of the world like Sweden.

Where did it come from? What traditions are there and how do we celebrate them? We will explore all of these things today and in the end, you will begin to appreciate this festival.

What is the Midsummer Festival?

Midsummer is called Midsommar in the Swedish language, but the world commonly refers to it as the Midsummer Solstice.

It is a summer celebration that people are excited about every year. The short story is what we mentioned earlier—it is a way to celebrate the coming of summer after a really long winter.

So, how did it start?

According to the Nordic Museum, we can trace back the festival from a holiday about John the Baptist. This celebration took place on the 24th of June. The problem with this is that it always falls on a different day of a given week. As such, in 1953, it was decided that Midsummer will be on a Friday all the time, between the 20th and 26th of June.

Midsummer was not celebrated in pagan times before Christianity. However, there were traditions that were dedicated to the summer solstice. There is this thing called midsommarstång, which literally translates as Maypole. It is the center of festivities that originated in Germany.

The pole celebration is something that we can trace back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Some say that the pole is phallic and that it represents fertility. However, there is no evidence that corroborates this.

What Happens During Midsummer?

During this event, people decorate places with green garlands and flowers. They also dance—a lot. In history, the celebration is also tied to magical experiences. People believed that plants have supernatural powers and that certain beings were active during this time.

As such, one activity that they did was to pick flowers during Midsummer Night. They believed that supernatural beings transferred their power to the plants. Some collected plants to heal illnesses, and some collected plants to predict the future. Others believed that rolling on the ground on Midsummer morning was good for your health.

What Are the Events During This Festival? 

The celebrations start at noon. Friends and family gather at the park to enjoy a picnic. In the park, a maypole stands in the center. One custom is to dance around the pole. In more organized celebrations, a troupe starts the dance. This troupe has members that wear traditional clothing. After that, they invite the guests to join the dance. There is a special dance here called the Små grodorna or the Little Frogs. In this dance, people jump and mimic frogs.

Late in the afternoon, the people will have a long lunch where they speak stories. The food you will eat here is the best that people can serve in a year. It is similar to the food we eat during Easter and Christmas. Some of the most common dishes you will see are:

  • Salmon
  • Gravlax
  • Potatoes
  • Sour cream
  • Chives
  • Pickled herring

Pickled herring is also called Sill. Many Swedes make their own version of the sill, and you should be prepared for a smorgasbord of pickles.

It does not end here. There is still a celebration at night. If you attend this celebration, forget about using your phone to access YouTube, Facebook, or even GGBet. You will not have the time to do so. At night, people will have drinks and outdoor games. Based on tradition, your options are beer, snaps, vodka, and akvavit. The snaps have flavor in them. The most common flavors you will find are lemon and elderflower.

Another tradition that you may want to do is to collect flowers. There is a belief that by collecting seven flowers at night and putting them under your pillow, you will dream of your one true love.

Midsummer is a fun experience. If you ever visit Sweden or any Nordic country, make sure you get there during this period. It is best celebrated in the archipelagos, but you can also have fun and celebrate the holiday in any city. Some areas host a three-day affair, and many Swedish parks and places participate. You can just walk around and enjoy the festivities or spend time with your family and friends!