Midsummer 101

A Swedish midsummer is "endless" summer with sun, fun, great food, flowers, dancing and joy ... a piece of Swedish culture to be proud of.  

  • "Midsommarkrans" at Midsommar in New York's Battery Park. Photo: Dag Bennstrom.
  • Midsummer is something all Swedes look forward to, and a tradition that non-Swedes can fall in love with easily as well. In short, a piece of culture to be proud of.

  • Ulf Kirchdorfer's book, "Swede Among the Rednecks" - available at <a href="http://tinyurl.com/ztt7kbr" target="_blank">“Amazon”</a> or through Nordstjernan, 1.800.827.9333
  • You’re far from Sweden but you still want to celebrate Midsummer, so what do you do? Well, you can check to see if there are any Swedish Midsummer celebrations in your area. If not, here’s what you can do to celebrate yourself. And why not invite some friends as well?

  • "Midsommarstång" at Skansen in Stockholm. Photo: Wikimedia/Commons
  • 1. Midsummer is one of the most important holidays of the year in Sweden, and probably the most uniquely Swedish in the way it is celebrated. Raising and dancing around the maypole (“midsommarstång” or “majstång”) is an important activity. Wayne Soderlund constructed his own maypole with green tubes and decorated it with synthetic leaves and flowers.

  • Artist Elfi von Kantzov Alvin and two women in their floral wreath "Midsommarkrans" at a Midsummer celebration in New York's Battery Park a few years ago.
  • 2. Flowers are important. Swedes really go overboard with flowers for Midsummer. The most important one is the “midsommarkrans,” the flower wreath everyone (including boys and men) wear.

  • National folk costumes are an important part of Midsummer in Sweden. If you own one (or can borrow one) this is the day to wear it. These costumes are different, depending on what province in Sweden they represent.
  • 3. Food might be the most important ingredient in a Swedish Midsummer. A variety of pickled herrings are a must, as are chives (chopped) and “gräddfil" easily substituted with sour cream, as well as new potatoes boiled with dill. Bowls and bowls of strawberries are just as important for dessert, with or without whipped cream. With the herring, you drink “snaps,” a strong alcoholic beverage, usually aquavit or vodka. Snaps cannot be consumed without a few “snapsvisor” (snaps songs) to go with it.

  • Matjes herring, most popular kind of herring for Midsummer is often served with sour cream, chives, potatoes and a hard boiled egg—the right food for the longest day of the year. Photo: Fluff Wikimedia/Commons
  • 4. Magic. This is the most magical day of the year. Why? Because it doesn’t end! On Midsummer the sun doesn’t set, and the day simply spills into night and then into the next day. For Swedes who have been inundated with darkness for all those long winter months, it’s easy to see why this day is so important. Traditionally, young unmarried women (and girls) pick seven (or nine) different kinds of flowers and put them under their pillow. When they sleep, they will dream about their future spouse. Also herbs are special on Midsummer—they are more potent than usual, and the water from springs brings good health.

  • "Midsommarkrans" at Midsommar in New York's Battery Park. Photo: Dag Bennstrom.
  • 5. Clothes. If you go to a Swedish Midsummer celebration, you don’t want to be dressed up too much (remember you will do a lot of “ringdans” around the maypole so leave the fancy gowns and suits at home). However, if you do have a “folkdräkt,” a folk costume, this is the day to put it on. For Midsommar celebrations in Battery Park in New York City, many people show up in Swedish soccer jerseys or other Swedish T-shirts. Make sure you have a wreath of flowers on your head.