I can’t even begin to explain how incredibly awesome this holiday is. I have a feeling most don’t really know what Midsummer is unless they actually GO to a Midsummer celebration.
I have to start at the beginning though, because there is so many tiny details that I am excited to dive into and share. First, the history.
“In agrarian times, Midsummer celebrations in Sweden were held to welcome summertime and the season of fertility. In some areas people dressed up as ‘green men’, clad in ferns. They also decorated their houses and farm tools with foliage, and raised tall, leafy maypoles to dance around, probably as early as the 1500s. Midsummer was primarily an occasion for young people, but it was also celebrated in the industrial communities of central Sweden, where all mill employees were given a feast of pickled herring, beer and schnapps. It was not until the 1900s, however, that this became the most Swedish of all traditional festivities.” — https://sweden.se/culture-traditions/midsummer/
Really truly though the number one thing that I got a kick out of was the fact that every single Swede I asked, “Why do you do this, what’s the meaning of it?” The response was, “It’s tradition. There really isn’t a reason, we just do it.” Best response ever really.
So to start at the beginning, I took a long bus ride up to San Jose to meet up with my boyfriend (whom for privacy purposes I like to call Bear). To be honest, the bus ride wasn’t so bad. I even had time to work on my Manny, which was great because I desperately needed it! Friday night we spent time eating homemade BBQ and drinking and talking the night away. It was seriously great, and totally relaxing.
The next morning we woke up in a flurried dash to get everyone ready on time. There was quite the amount of Swede‘s packed into one beautiful house, but we all managed to get ready and out the door by mid morning. We drove out into the hay filled, rolling hills just South of San Jose and up up up into the mountains into the beautiful back country of Sveadal. Beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe it, nor can I explain the feeling of thinking there is a troll waiting for you around every bend. The trees themselves felt mythical and filled me with a sense of wonder.
Once we arrive, Bear and I, we drove through the dusty parking area and happily jumped from our car into the 100 degree heat with fat smiles on our faces. Once we linked up with our group, we dropped our stuff, slathered suntan lotion on my Irish girl skin, and then took off to help decorate the Maypole. My first question, “Why do they call it a Maypole?” The answer of course was, “They just do, it’s tradition.” There is a long historical explanation for this, but truly I love the Swede’s way of explaining this, besides it’s really pretty. They basically decorate a huge pole with flowers for us to later dance around, the why’s really don’t matter. Tradition just is, so why not just decorate and enjoy? And we did!
Once they raised the Maypole out came the traditionally dressed leaders of Midsummer to guide us in the most amazingly awesome dances I have ever seen. The Little Frogs (Små Grodorna) is a song sung every Midsummer in probably around every maypole in every town in Sweden. It’s a classic to them, and I could easily see it as every person walked around in a circle around the Maypole singing about a frog that has no ears and no tail. It’s truly adorable and a lot of fun to do with about 100 other adults and kids.
Once we danced and sung around the pole several times, holding hands and then flapping our arms, linking elbows and then dashing back into circle formation we all split ways to our groups and settled down for lunch.
Most of the day was spent hanging out and telling stories, shopping the jewelry and Swedish clothing stands, and eating some very very tasty traditional Swedish snacks. Along with bagels, lots and lots of bagels.
One of the most well-known facets of Midsummer for me was the wreath of flowers for my hair. It’s a MUST to have during Midsummer, all girls proudly wear them and more than half make them themselves. I half cheated and bought a dried flowers one with my awesomely non-swede friend Erica (matching flower girls!) but then added some fresh flowers to my beautiful little tiara because I must join in on the flower decorating fun! The outcome was amazing, and Bear’s mother probably made the best one which she let me wear for a while 🙂
Once it got a bit darker and they did a traditional parade and singing, we all went on a walk around the grounds. Well not all of us, maybe about 30 of us. Bear and I walked along as the walk tour guide talked about the traditions of Sveadal and the history of the people who lived there. It was a really interesting walk, and also really pretty to see. And I did see a Troll! Two in fact!
The best part of the evening for me is when Bear grabbed my hand when the sun went down and we headed to the dance floor. It was really quite magical. There was wooden platform and old fashion styled light bulbs handing from wooden poles giving the night a completely romantic air. I loved it!
There were two dances that Bear taught me, both of which was almost impossible to do without my skirt slipping down my butt or my sandals flying off but I did my best and we giggled and laughed through each “adjustment” of clothing after stomping, circling and twirling around the dance floor.
All in all, my first Midsummer was a truly great experience, and the most amazing memory to have. I seriously can’t wait for next year. I am going to brush up on my Swedish singing, learn a dance more or two, and wear the appropriate clothing and shoes next time.
Now, if you truly want to listen to an awesome rendition of what Midsummer is check out this video that Bear showed me, it’s called, “Midsummer for Dummies” and it’s truly right on the money from what I hear.
Until my next adventure, hejdå
“Midsummer for Dummies”