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Midsummer Eve, the big summer celebration in Sweden!

Updated on July 17, 2014

If you are in Sweden in late June you better be prepared for what you most certainly will encounter. And you will not be safe even if you're not in Sweden, since everywhere there are Swedes it may be a traditional Swedish celebration of Midsummer! I know for example that there are a big Swedish midsummer celebration in Hyde Park every year!

It may be a surprise to see how we celebrate Midsummer, especially considering that Swedes are known to be a bit stiff and dull!

But on midsummer the stereotypical Swede is blown away and we transform to happy people who enjoy silly dances and we have the party of the year! Midsummer Eve is regarded as a public holiday even if it isn't, and all banks and many shops are closed, or are only open for a few hours this day. Many Swedes are traveling to the countryside or to the coasts to celebrate this big party and if you are in a town during midsummer the town can feel a bit empty. Other things to consider is if you are planning to drive a car in Sweden on the day before Midsummer Eve you better be prepared for heavy traffic and long caravans of cars on the roads the day before Midsummer Eve. Midsummer is a very old and dear ceremony for us and it is celebrated around the day of the summer solstice. The date for the celebration can vary from year to year between 19 to 25 June since it is always celebrated on a Friday. At this time of the year the nature is sprouting of new vegetation and we celebrate that our short summer really begins. Even though we have a National Day it can’t compete with the tradition, the joy and festivities that occur on Midsummer Eve festivities.

Midsummer 2014 and 2015!

Midsummer Eve is

June 20 in 2014

June 19 in 2015

The history of Midsummer Eve festivities

This is a celebration that goes way back in time in Scandinavia. Some says it has its roots all the way back to the Vikings. The tradition is about celebrating the longest day of the year at the summer solstice. Midsummer night is said to be full of magic and according to ancient folklore everything in nature has supernatural powers on this particular night. It is the shortest night on the year in Sweden and the sun does not set at all in northern Sweden. Midsummer night has a very special and wonderful light and to be outside in the night on Midsummer Eve feels special and nature look almost magical. So it is easy to imagine why it was thought that nature had special powers during this night. Midsummer is, and has always been a festivity for dance and joy but it is also a night that stands for both romance and erotica!

The church has done several attempt in the past to turn this pagan celebration into something more quiet and orderly but without success for the wider public.

Midsummer pole!

In accordance with old tradition we dance around a midsummer pole on Midsummer Eve as a part of the festivities.

A midsummer pole is a pole that is raised by means of ropes or muscular power. The pole is decorated with greenery and flowers shaped into wreaths. The wreaths where originally hanging around the pole but now the midsummer pole has the shape of a cross and the wreaths are hanging on the lateral pole. The tradition with midsummer pole is said to come from Germany during the 1300s-1400s.

Some says the midsummer pole is supposed to represent fertility and help increasing the birth of many children in the year to come. I don't really know, but I guess that with a bit of imagination can the midsummer pole be regarded as an erotic symbol!

Old myths about how to find your future lover on Midsummer Eve!

There are several old myths about how to find out who your future lover is and these ceremonies must be done during Midsummer Eve. I haven't tried any of these myself so I can not really say if it is working or not! And I doubt if there is anyone who try any of the more strange tips nowadays. These tips are more just for fun but picking flowers is still very common and maybe some women will be tempted to put them under the pillow too! Midsummer Eve is special! It was said that the flowers had special powers during the time when the sun stood on it highest point during midsummer.

  • One old myth is about single girls and women should pick seven or nine different flowers and put the bouquet under the pillow before going to sleep on midsummer night. According to the tradition it is said that the man that shows up in your dream is the man who will be your husband.
  • If you want to reinforce the special powers you should do everything backwards! So when you pick the flowers, you must go backwards, and pick the flowers with the left hand.
  • Go to a well in the woods in the middle of the night. Then you must walk 9 times backwards around the well and you must be naked. When you are done, you can look down in the well and you will see the face of your loved one.
  • Sit backwards on a chair and eat a salt herring. You have to eat the fish with the tail first. Go to bed. During the night you will dream that you are thirsty and if your future love brings you a glass of water in your dream you will live in poverty all your life. If he/she brings you wine, you will live a life in luxury. If it is alcohol in the glass you will be married to an alcoholic.

Midsummer pole is usually prepared the day before or on Midsummer morning and it starts with the collecting and the picking of flowers in a hopefully sunny weather. The flowers are used for binding wreaths and we usually make wreaths for both the pole and some wreaths to put on our heads. The flowers are typical native flowers, like daisies, buttercups, columbines etc. The greenery on the pole consists of fresh birch branches.

The dancing, or rather the singing games, occurs after the decorations are finished. By that time the girls and women are dressed in their sweetest summer dresses, that are often white or with flower patterns.

The singing games were from the beginning only for adults and it was the young adults who did the dancing or the games. According to history the lyrics was often related to sex, liquor and so on. It was not until later that the singing games transformed and also became suitable for children and the lyrics were converted into more easy movement patterns and more fun lyrics that suited children.

The singing games is a fun tradition for all ages and maybe this is the reason why tradition with singing games is still living. Nowadays we say that we dance for the sake of the children but most adults do enjoy it and do it even if the children don’t participate!

We dance around the Midsummer pole in rings and the number of rings depend on how many people who are participating in the dance. If there are several rings, the first ring dance in one direction and the second ring will dance in the opposite direction.

Midsummer celebration is mostly done in the same old way and therefor there are many old traditional songs mixed with new ones. It is also common to wear traditional national clothes on this day since this is a very special occasion.

Please watch the videos below because I want to share some of this tradition with you!

Dancing and singing games!

One very special dance are the dance; “The little frogs”. I take the risk and show you this even though you might look upon the Swedes in a different way after seeing this!

It is so much fun and every Swede knows how to dance it! The dance is performed partly by jumping on the heels and we wag our hands besides our ears and at the lower part of our backs when we sing the words “ears and tails”. The origin of the song is said to be French but how it came to Sweden I don’t know. The song can consist of more verses about other animals and if the animal has both arms and tail we just change the text. Here is a translation:

The little frogs

The little frogs, the little frogs are funny to observe.

The little frogs, the little frogs are funny to observe.

No ears, no ears no tails do they possess.

No ears, no ears no tails do they possess.

Kou ack ack ack, kou ack ack ack,

kou ack ack ack ack kaa.

Kou ack ack ack, kou ack ack ack,

kou ack ack ack ack kaa.

The little pigs, the little pigs are funny to observe.

The little pigs, the little pigs are funny to observe.

Both ears, both ears and tails do they possess.

Both ears, both ears and tails do they possess.

Oh oink oink oink, oh oink oink oink,

oh oink oink oink oink oink

Oh oink oink oink, oh oink oink oink,

oh oink oink oink oink oink

So, in that way we dance on, dancing and hopping around the Maypole. There are also many other singing games that is traditional so the dance can continue for a while! And before you ask, no we are not crazy or high on drugs or anything. At least there are many of us that dance without as much as one glass of vodka!

Look at the videos below to see how the dance is done. And I couldn’t resist to show you a video of a world record attempt in midsummer dance.

Traditional Midsummer food consists of pickled herring, boiled new potatoes, onion and sour creme.
Traditional Midsummer food consists of pickled herring, boiled new potatoes, onion and sour creme. | Source
Traditional Midsummer cake with cream and strawberries!
Traditional Midsummer cake with cream and strawberries! | Source

Traditional food on Midsummer Eve!

Apart from old myths and the dancing there are also the traditional Swedish food served during midsummer!

The traditional Swedish food that is eaten on midsummer is pickled herring, boiled new potatoes that is served with chives and sour cream! It is also tradition to drink beer and snaps or spiced vodka to the food. And as always in Sweden, we like to have other types of herring, some boiled eggs and a green salad. We can eat all kinds of pickled herring with different spices and tastes and we also have herring in cakes, casseroles, pies, salads and as starters that can be served in glasses. Herring is totally right on Midsummer Eve and so is the traditional food. The dinner tables are decorated with flowers and the Swedish flag or other items in yellow and blue.

As dessert i prefer a delicious strawberry cake and coffee.

Since we often stay up all night there are usually more food later on in the evening. All that dancing around the midsummer pole requires more to eat and we usually have grilled meat with a potato salad and a green salad.

Drinking Song!

It is also tradition to drink schnapps to the herring. And to every schnapps there should be a drinking song. There are several traditional and also many new drinking songs in Sweden but this is the most common drinking song of all and in Swedish it is called: Helan går!

Titel: The Whole goes

The whole goes, sing hopp-father-allan-lallan-ley

The whole goes, sing hopp-father-allan-lallan-ley

And he who will not take the whole

He´ll miss the chance to take the half

The whole goes..... (drink the snaps)

sing hopp-father-allan-lallan-ley

Have a great Midsummer Eve!
Have a great Midsummer Eve! | Source

So, now you know what to expect from the Swedes during this special day!

I wish you all a wonderful Midsummer Eve with family and friends. A day with lots of fun, happy dancing, good food, love and socializing!

And as usual we all hope for warm and sunny weather on this special day with not a cloud nor any rain in sight!


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