Glad Midsommer! Swedish Midsummer is one of the most popular holidays in Sweden. It happens on the longest day of the year, the summer solstice, and is a time for people to get together with family and friends and celebrate with food, drinks, and lots of fun activities. You can dance around the maypole, wear flower crowns or try some traditional dishes like pickled herring and strawberry cake!
What Is Swedish Midsummer?
Swedish Midsummer, or Midsommar as it’s known in Swedish, is one of the most important and cherished holidays in Sweden next to Christmas (Jul). It’s a time to celebrate the arrival of summer and enjoy the warmth and beauty of summer.
Midsummer is usually celebrated on the weekend closest to the summer solstice, which takes place on either June 20th or 21st every year. The celebrations begin on the Friday evening before the solstice and continue through the weekend with traditional activities such as dancing around the maypole, feasting on delicious foods like pickled herring and new potatoes, and spending time with family and friends.
When Is Midsummer 2023
In 2023, Midsummer falls on Saturday, June 24th. It’s celebrated on the weekend closest to the summer solstice, which falls on either June 20th or 21st each year, and the Midsummer celebration usually takes place between June 19th and 25th of June.
The Importance of Swedish Midsummer in Swedish Culture
Swedish Midsummer is a culturally significant holiday in Sweden with roots in ancient pagan celebrations of the summer solstice. Over time, Midsummer became a Christian holiday, and today it’s celebrated by people of all ages and backgrounds. It’s a time to come together with loved ones to celebrate Swedish heritage and express national pride.
The summer solstice represents a time of abundance and vitality in many cultures. In Scandinavia, it’s particularly special because of the long hours of daylight. Swedes celebrate the sun and the significance of light with colorful decorations, lively traditional dances, and delicious food and drinks.
Midsummer also marks the arrival of summer after a long, dark winter. It’s an opportunity for Swedes to celebrate and embrace the season of light and warmth while reflecting on their rich cultural heritage. The holiday brings the community together to enjoy traditional festivities while celebrating their culture and history.
Origins of Swedish Midsummer
The origins of Midsummer in Scandinavia can be traced back to ancient pagan times. The holiday was traditionally celebrated as a fertility festival, where people would honor the sun and its life-giving powers. It was believed that the summer solstice marked a time of renewal and growth, and that the rituals and traditions performed during Midsummer would help ensure a bountiful harvest and good fortune for the rest of the year.
With the spread of Christianity, many Midsummer traditions were eventually incorporated into celebrations honoring the feast day of St. John the Baptist. St. John’s Eve, which always fell on June 23rd, was marked with bonfires, fireworks, dancing, and visiting holy wells and springs. The maypole, a tall wooden pole adorned with flowers around which celebrants dance and sing, became a part of Midsummer celebrations by the 1500s.
Over time, Midsummer celebrations in Sweden underwent a revival, and the holiday became more closely associated with Swedish national identity. This was a time when Sweden was experiencing a cultural renaissance, and Midsummer provided an opportunity to celebrate the country’s rich history, folklore, and traditions.
In the 1950s, the official date of Midsummer was changed from the fixed date of June 23rd to a flexible date between June 20 and 26. This way the holiday would always land on a weekend, giving people the opportunity to celebrate it without having to worry about working the next day.
Today, Swedish Midsummer is celebrated by people of all ages and backgrounds in Sweden. The holiday has evolved over time, but it continues to be a time for coming together with family and friends to celebrate the beauty of the natural world and to honor Swedish heritage and traditions.
Traditions and Celebrations Activities
Midsummer is celebrated in Sweden with a number of traditional activities like the Midsummer pole, flower crowns, folk dances and songs, and a little bit of folk lore.
The Midsummer Pole
The Midsummer pole, also known as the “midsommarstången,” is a central and iconic part of Swedish Midsummer celebrations. It symbolizes the arrival of summer and the abundance of nature, and the decorations on it represent the joy of the season. This tradition dates back to ancient pagan times, where the pole was a symbol of fertility and the sun’s power to bring growth and prosperity.
During Midsummer’s Eve celebrations, a tall wooden pole that has been decorated with birch branches, flowers, and ribbons is raised into an upright position. The pole is set up in a central location where people can gather and celebrate together by doing traditional folk dances around the pole. One of the most popular dances is the “små grodorna” (little frogs) dance, where people mimic the body parts a frog lacks, like ears and a tail.
Swedish Midsummer flower crowns, or “blomsterkransar”, are a beloved tradition during the Midsummer celebrations in Sweden. The tradition of wearing flower crowns dates back centuries, originating from the pagan belief that flowers have magical powers. The flower crowns are made from wildflowers and other natural materials, such as birch leaves and ferns, and they are worn by women, men and children.
Making flower crowns is a fun and creative activity often done with friends and family in the days leading up to Midsummer. The crowns are typically made by hand, with each individual flower carefully selected and woven together into a beautiful and intricate design. The colors and styles of the flower crowns vary depending on the flowers and other materials used.
Wearing a flower crown during Midsummer is a way to celebrate the beauty of nature and the arrival of summer. The crowns are said to bring good luck and happiness to those who wear them, and they add to the festive and joyful atmosphere of the Midsummer celebrations.
According to ancient folklore, plants are said to have magical properties on Midsummer’s Eve. Legend has it that if an unmarried woman puts seven different types of flowers under her pillow before she goes to sleep that night, she’ll dream of her future partner. (I bet it would work for men as well!)
Folk Dances and Songs
Folk dances and songs are an integral part of Swedish Midsummer celebrations and are performed during the raising of the Midsummer pole and throughout the night’s festivities.
One of the most popular dances is the “små grodorna” or “little frogs” dance, where participants mimic the body parts a frog lacks, like ears and a tail. Another popular dance is the “hambo,” a slower couple’s dance that’s known for its lively and bouncy movements.
Singing traditional Swedish folk songs is also a fun and lively part of Midsummer celebrations, especially after a few drinks! Many of these songs are focused on nature, love, and the joys of summer.
Some of the most well-known Swedish Midsummer songs include “Vi äro musikanter”, “Helan går”, and “små grodorna.” These songs are usually accompanied by the traditional Swedish snaps, or “nubbe”. A snaps is a shot of aquavit, a traditional Scandinavian alcohol made from grain or potatoes and flavored with a variety of herbs and spices, including caraway, dill, fennel, coriander, and anise.
Midsummer Food and Drinks
Traditional foods and drinks play an important role in Swedish Midsummer celebrations. Some of the most popular Midsummer foods and drinks are Jansson’s temptation, new potatoes, strawberries, herring and snaps. Here’s more on what to serve at your Midsummer celebration.
Pickled Herring: Pickled herring, or “sill,” is a staple of Swedish Midsummer feasts. The fish is typically marinated in a vinegar and sugar solution and served with potatoes, sour cream, and chives.
Boiled New Potatoes: Boiled new potatoes, or “nypotatis,” are another traditional Midsummer dish. The potatoes are typically served with butter and dill, and are often paired with pickled herring.
Gravlax: Gravlax is a popular Swedish dish made from raw salmon that has been cured with salt, sugar, and dill. The fish is typically served with a mustard and dill sauce, and is a favorite at Midsummer feasts.
Strawberry Cake: Strawberry cake, or “jordgubbstårta,” is a popular dessert during Midsummer. The cake is made from layers of sponge cake, whipped cream, and fresh strawberries.
Beer and Snaps: Beer and snaps, or “nubbe,” are the most popular alcoholic beverages during Midsummer celebrations. Snaps is typically served chilled in shot glasses and is often accompanied by traditional Swedish songs (known as “snapsvisor”) and toasts.
Where Can You Celebrate Swedish Midsummer?
One of the best ways to experience Midsummer festivities is to join a community festival or event. Many towns and cities throughout the US host Midsummer festivals, which typically include a variety of activities such as dancing, singing, games, and traditional Midsummer foods and drinks. You can do a search online to see if there’s one happening near you!
Joining a Midsummer festival is a great way to meet new people, experience Swedish traditions and customs, and fully immerse yourself in the joy and excitement of the holiday. Glad Midsommer!