Having arrived in Sweden for some of the longest days of the year, it has barely gotten dark during the nights of the past two weeks. The sun dips below the horizon a little bit after 10 PM and has been rising around 4:15 AM or so. On the clear nights, the sky retains a dusk-like glow straight through until dawn. The summer is short and sweet here on the 56th parallel north. I'm sure those with the same northerly point of view in Russia, Canada and Alaska would say the same. For perspective, the 56th parallel south resides between South America and Antarctica, and intersects no land on its path around the globe. So when you're in a place this far north, and yet, you're actually in the southern part of that country, it's no wonder people here celebrate the onset of summer like nowhere else in the world. Midsommar is celebrated on the Friday that falls between June 19th and 26th each year and is a national holiday for which most Swede's are excused from work in order to sing, dance and celebrate with friends that the sky is not dark and the air not cold. Midsommar fell on
the 24th this year, so for me, it was also a celebration of my brother's 25th birthday from afar. Happy Birthday one more time Cary.
To begin the celebratory day, Adina and I went picking strawberries (jodgubbar in Swedish) early in the morning. The season lasts only a few weeks and not many strawberries are imported throughout the year, so this is the time of year to binge on strawberries if you live in Sweden. We grabbed a big bucket, filling it with several liters of strawberries in just about 30 minutes. You're allowed to eat as many strawberries as you can while you're in the strawberry patch, so we did just that and ate our breakfast during the harvest.
When we returned home, it was nearly time for the community to gather around the midsommarstång (the midsummer pole) to sing and dance. Pressed for time, I volunteered my flower gathering services while Adina was getting ready, as it is customary for girls at the midsommarstång gathering to wear a crown of local flowers in their hair. I didn't have to go very far to gather a grocery bag full of purple, yellow, pink and white blooms. Not
It is a tradition on Midsummer that the girls will pick flowers to make a crown that they wear to the Midsummer celebration. We were a little pressed for time, so I volunteered to be the flower picker this year. Adina's mom wove the flowers into this beautiful crown for Adina.
more than 5 minutes after returning to the house, Adina's mother had woven them into a beautiful crown of midsummer colors.
With flowers in place on Adina's head (and Snobben's collar), the Magnusson clan and I set off on the short walk to the Hembygdsgården. Each village has a Hembygdsgården, which traditionally is where community gatherings were held, and today, is still where the midsummer pole is erected for people to gather. With picnic blankets set up around the perimeter of a small field, a dozen or so men came marching toward the middle of the field carrying a large pole across their shoulders. When they reached the center of the field, they placed the pole upright in the spot where it shall remain for most of the summer. Decorated in ivy and flowers from top to bottom, the midsommarstång quickly became the center point of concentric circles of dancing Swedish children and their parents. I can't tell you what all the songs were about, but I can tell you that they are all silly. All I know about my personal favorite song of the day is that it was about a frog, and the dance that accompanies the
song entails some frog-like maneuvers. This served as great entertainment while we picnicked only a few feet away from the outermost ring of festivities. The entire event at the Hembygdsgården lasted not more than 90 minutes, after which there was an exodus from the field as people returned home to be with friends or family.
In our case, Adina was hosting a BBQ for her friends. All the friends I had met over the course of last summer filed into her home, along with some new faces as well, for a BBQ and potluck. Similar to last years crayfish party, everybody (well, those who knew Swedish anyway) sang Swedish songs, each song concluded by a swig of one's drink.
What a cool celebration to experience. I'm happy to have my first Midsommar under my belt. For those of you in the NYC area who want to experience this, I've since learned that the second largest Midsommar celebration in the world (after Stockholm) happens in Battery Park, co-hosted by the Swedish Consulate and the city. One day we'll have to experience the NYC rendition of Midsommar.
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