Despite my tenuous relationship with the Swedish language at the moment, it did not prevent me from enthusiastically participating in the great Swedish celebration that is Midsummer’s.
Midsummer’s celebrates the summer solstice, the longest day of the year (at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere). On a Friday closest to June 21st, a mass exodus begins as people in the city are irresistibly pulled to the islands and (more) water. Tall Maypoles appear, traditional blue and yellow clothing donned, and a specific Midsummer’s menu of food is prepared, all to mark this special occasion.
(Accompanied by great quantities of you-can-light-a-fire-from-the-fumes alcohol.)
Swedes, more than any other nationality I have encountered, have a particular fondness for combining singing with drinking. In the US – and many other countries – such a combination would be considered drunkenness, but in Sweden, it’s ‘culture.’
And a wonderful culture it is.
Of course, Midsummer’s is much more than just singing and drinking. It is water and sun and friends and loved ones and good food and lazing in the sun and good beer and boating and swimming and sil (pickled herring; seriously yummy, I swear) and new potatoes with their fragile, flaking skins and fresh dill and schnapps and melt-in-your-mouth strawberries and flowers under your pillow to dream of your future spouse and laughter and grind-your-teeth sweet punsch and a maypole (majstång or midsommarstång) bundled up in boughs of birch and wild flowers that you dance around singing a lively song about a frog and going “kou ack ack ack” accompanied by a great flapping of arms.
(Yes, I thought it was a bit funny myself but it’s like a cold: catching.)
Midsummer’s is ideally celebrated near water. In the case of Stockholm natives, the perfect Midsummer’s would be out on a boat or on one of the many islands in the archipelago. Other key ingredients: people you like and sun.
(Because if you lack the latter, then the former – plus some schnapps – will ensure a good time.)
(BTW if you want to watch a movie and gain a little bit of insight into the Midsummer tradition and Swedish summer culture – granted, in a twisted kind of way – watch A Swedish Midsummer Sex Comedy.)
Midsummer’s is wonderful, delightful time. If you ever head this way in the summer, try and do so over Midsummer’s. You’ll take away with you some truly unique and quintessentially Swedish memories.
And probably a hangover.