By Dana Yu
If you’re lucky enough to be teaching English in Sweden, make sure to stay until June to get in on the biggest holiday of the year.
Each June, Swedes flee the cities for their summer homes in the countryside to welcome the arrival of summer with greenery, dancing, feasts, and friends at the annual Midsummer festival. This two-day celebration was historically aligned with the summer solstice, but has since been designated on the Friday and Saturday between June 19 and 26.
The festival begins Friday morning on Midsummer’s Eve with the construction and decoration of the maypole. The maypole is built in the shape of a tall cross with large wooden poles, and two floral wreaths hang on either side. After a traditional lunch of pickled herring, boiled potatoes, salmon, eggs, schnapps, and more, the maypole is raised in an open field where children and adults sing and dance Midsummer songs.
Dinner features a grilled dish, and the season’s first strawberries paired with cream are the traditional dessert. Dancing continues with live music in the open night air, and girls slip flowers that they picked during the day under their pillows so that their future husbands may appear later in their dreams.
On Midsummer Day, friends and family recover and relax enjoying the fine weather and the start of the holiday season.
Tips for your first Swedish Midsummer:
- Learn the “Små grodorna” dance and song. Children and adults will be singing and dancing a popular song about tadpoles that involves imitating little frogs.
- Be careful with the schnapps. You will be encouraged to drink schnapps, or shots of spicy vodka, after each drinking song at lunch. Take small sips because the songs will be plentiful.
- Beware of language quirks. Even if you have developed a proficient level of Swedish, you are likely to stumble upon dialects of the respective region since Midsummer is celebrated in the countryside.
- Be open to new encounters. Midsummer is a time to celebrate the summer season, but the annual festival is also known to instigate new romances.
In Norway, Finland, and Denmark, Midsummer is celebrated in the countryside with bonfires.