Wondering what all the fuss is about? And where all the Stockholmers have gone? Want to find ways to celebrate Midsummer in the city?
Swedish Midsummer is easily the most celebrated holiday in the country, rivalled only by Christmas. Nature is in full bloom, love is in the air and twilight replaces most of the dark hours. It’s a time when the city becomes eerily quiet as people head to the archipelago or the countryside to gather around the maypole with family and friends. Here’s a brief description of Midsommar (pronounced with a short i and a silent d) festivities.
Originally, the Vikings celebrated Midsummer as a fertility rite. The maypole was a phallic symbol, which was planted into the earth to symbolically fertilize Mother Nature in hopes of a bountiful harvest later in the year. The celebration marked the Summer Solstice – the longest day of the year and the shortest night. Today, the holiday always takes place on a Friday and usually marks the beginning of the summer holiday for most Swedes.
A typical Midsummer feast consists of a variety of sill (pickled herring), boiled new potatoes with fresh dill, sour cream, red onions and crisp bread. Often followed by a grilled dish and a cheese pie. Janssons Frestelse (or Jansson’s Temptation) is another favourite – just like at Christmas.
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For dessert Swedes usually serve up the first strawberries of summer with cream. Or make a cake – with cream and strawberries. But no Midsummer spread would be complete without a bottomless glass of spiced schnapps, with which traditional “snapsvisor” (folk drinking songs) are sung upon refills. If you only learn – and take part in – one – this should be it!
Houses are decorated with birch wreaths and flower garlands and women and girls often wear wreaths in their hair. Swedes then dance around the decorated “Majstång” (maypole) while singing traditional folk songs and often times dressing up in national costumes. But don’t worry – this won’t be required of you – unless you want to.
If you are looking to familiarise yourself with typical Swedish summer music that you’ll find on most Swedish Midsummer playlists, have a listen to these 10 tunes hand-picked for you:
For information on Midsummer celebrations in YOUR part of Stockholm (in Swedish), click here.
Glad Midsommar, everyone!