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A girl with a flower crown

Midsommar, what? A truly unique celebration in Sweden

By: Kornelia Januszewska

It’s the 19th of June 2020 and somehow you’ve found yourself here in Sweden – What do you do?
The answer is simple – You celebrate midsommar, of course.
Midsommar in Sweden

The History of Midsommar

Just imagine a never-ending lunch party, with flower crowns on your head, dancing around a maypole (midsommarstång) while singing to joyful folk music and enjoying the company of your friends, as well as, the rays of sunshine on your face missed so dearly the past few winter-ish/spring-ish months. I mean, it sounds like a dream come true, right?

Therefore it is of no surprise as to why midsommar is in fact one of the most-celebrated holidays in Sweden aside from Christmas.

Originally, midsommar celebrations were directed towards John the Baptist, as a Christian holiday, which took place on the 24th of June. As we might have known, modern-day Swedes aren’t the most religious, so as a consequence, in 1953, it was decided that the summer solstice would always be celebrated on the Friday between the 20th and 26th of June.

Some people believe its origins come from pagan times when such rituals like dancing around the maypole were to celebrate overall fertility.

And even till now, there are still such beliefs about the magic of a midsommar night – that many choose to have a little “getaway” to bathe naked in the dew on the following morning as it’s considered healthy for one’s body and mind.

Cultural References

Swedish midsommar was, is, and probably will be an inspiration for various artistic creations.

William Shakespeare dwelled into the magical aspects of the night in his dramatical piece “The Midsummer’s Night Dream”, but the celebrations were also turned into an American horror-thriller movie “Midsommar” from 2019, although, it’s worth mentioning that both visions mentioned are far from the truth and reality of the festivity.

4 Strange Midsommar Traditions

1. Doing the frog dance 🐸 

penguins hopping

Basically everybody imitating frogs and hopping around the maypole, while singing “Små grodorna” (small frogs).

2. Eating lots of herring 🐟

simpson homer eating fish

Indulging in good food, but mostly herring in every single form: pickled, smoked, fermented, etc.

3. Sudden weather changes ☔️

oh really reaction

Call it bad luck, or a curse, but usually happens that on the midsommar weekend  – the weather goes a bit crazy. So, I would normally be prepared for some rain or snow, but hopefully, the sun.

4. Putting flowers under the pillow 🌼

anything is possible

A tradition where the Swedes pick seven types of flowers and put them under their pillow to dream about the one, true love. No amount of guarantee is given, though.

Where to celebrate Midsommer in Stockholm?

So, where should you go to experience this rather unique festivity?

Pay a visit to Skansen, the open-air museum in Stockholm, which hosts a 3-day midsommar celebration that is of the more traditional sort. Or you can always create your own gathering with friends in the nearest park. And don’t forget that you will need to get some fresh strawberries, summer potatoes, dill, salmon, and a flower crown to complete the whole midsommar vibes.

Let’s hope we all get the chance this year to welcome the summer solstice outside together with our friends and take in some positive energy.

Enjoy the video below of Alicia Vikander doing the traditional Swedish frog dance!

Glad midsommar!