The summer solstice is celebrated in Europe in many different ways, but Sweden undoubtedly has one of the most interesting festivals. Since pagan times, the Swedes have been celebrating the longest day of the year, which falls on 21st June. While Sweden has long, cold and dark winters, summer weather in Scandinavia is glorious with warm, but never sweltering temperatures and days of endless sunshine. Tourists from France and Germany have discovered this years ago and now spend their summer holidays camping in Sweden rather than lying on a beach in Spain, the news hasn’t quite gotten to Britain yet. But be assured that further north doesn’t necessary mean colder!
Since the 1950s, the midsummer festival takes place on a more convenient date for the working population, on a Friday between 19th and 25th June. There are many myths, traditions and of course, superstitions surrounding the midsummer festival.
One of the most popular stories is that if a young woman picks seven different flowers and lays them under her pillow on the night to Midsummer Day, she will supposedly dream of her future spouse – why not give it a try? As Sweden is one of Europe’s most modern countries with amazing equal rights laws, it surely works for young men, too. Flowers in general play a big role and children especially spent a lot of time collecting and pressing flowers and decorating everything – including themselves – with them.
What most modern Swedes do today though, is to head out into the country and rent holiday apartments with friends and families, or have a large garden party. Midsummer is a great time to explore the cities, which are quieter and less crowded than during any other time of the year. Although many people flee the cities, large parks often organise public midsummer festivals that anyone can join.
If you book early enough, you can book a holiday home in the countryside for a low price, too (a real alternative considering the high cost of both hotels and eating out in Sweden). Another great alternative is to go camping, which is allowed pretty much anywhere in Sweden. Just pack your gear and set up camp in a place that seems right to you!
No midsummer celebration is complete with the midsummer meal, or should we say meals? The tradition is to set up a big table with a buffet that guests can help themselves to. Swedish food is simple but delicious. Strawberries with whipped cream are very popular, as are traditional pickled herrings and potatoes with dill and sour cream.
Sweden is neither a wine nor beer drinking country – the tipple of choice is often a strong schnapps made of potatoes and grains. The drinks are never sweet and thus go well with the different types of refreshing but hearty dishes.
Where other countries have a May Pole, Sweden has its iconic midsummer pole, which is decorated with flowers and leaves and plenty of dancing space around it. And as during the midsummer time in Sweden, it never really gets dark, the party usually goes on until the wee hours of the morning (and sometimes even beyond that). Even if you’re a bad dancer, the dance around the may pole is little more than moving around it in a circle – anyone can do it without embarrassing themselves.
Even if you can’t make it to Sweden for the midsummer holiday, there’s no reason why you can’t celebrate the longest day at home in typical Swedish style!
Do you ever take habits and traditions from your holiday destinations back home?