Possibly the most famous and infamous of the traditional Swedish holidays, Midsommar. Littlebearbroad explores the traditions that could make this holiday one the whole family will remember.
Dancing around the maypole
The centrepiece of the Midsommar celebrations, the maypole, or “midsommarstång” is where our traditions begin. Dancing around the maypole, a pagan tradition, is set to bring about good fortune, fertility and harvest. The songs and dances are based around children’s nursery rhymes.
- Små Grodarna (the small frogs)
- Björnen Söver (the sleeping bear)
- Dansa i en ring (Dancing in a ring).
For some, this is the hightlight of the day, for other’s it’s a slightly awkward and embarrassing tradition set to live music and much hilarity.
Making a flower crown
The traditional “midsommarkrans” or flower crown is sometimes the first thing that people do on Midsommarafton. Both men and women take part in the activity and there is no one way of doing it. It’s a fantastic activity to get the kids crafting and to take up an hour or so whilst they perfect their technique.
For more tips on flower crown making, you can read Littlebearabroad’s short “how to guide”.
Raising the flag
As well as raising the midsommarstång, it’s tradition to raise the Swedish flag. You’ll have noticed that the Swedes like to get their flags out for any occassion. But, there are strict rules. Only whilst the sun is shining can the Swedish flag be flying. As soon as the sun begins to set the flag must be taken down. Top tip, get the kids on that duty, too!
Eating Strawberry Cake
Midsommar fika is of course Swedish Strawberry Cream Cake! Strawberry’s are in season throughout June and July in Sweden. And, they are some of the most delicious berry’s I have ever tasted. But, the Swedish Strawberry Cream Cake is the best bit about Midsommar food. Unless of course you love picked herring…
Littlebearabroad thought it best to let an expert in Swedish food provide the recipe for your very own, home-made Strawberry Cream Cake. Brought to you by SwedishFood.com.
After lunch it’s customary to set up games and lottos for the surrounding community to take part in. It’s very common for small villages or local communities to gather on Midsommarafton to compete against one another in teams or individuals.
Games such as:
With no real winner, or prize, it’s just the fun and hilarity of watching everyone fall over themselves competing in these silly games that makes it worth it.
Seven flowers from seven fields
An ancient tradition, often just meant for young maidens, but anyone can do it.
The ritual of picking seven different flowers from seven different fields on midsommarafton is a romantic one. It’s said that if you place the flowers under your pillow that night you’ll dream of your intended.
It’s an outdated and slightly patriarchal tradition. But, think about how long it would occupy the kids getting to seven different fields!?
Decorating the maypole
Of course, decorating and preparing the maypole usually happens in the lead up to Midsommarafton, but finishing off on the day.
The phallic shape of the maypole is a symbol of fertility. It’s decorated with birth, wild flowers, ferns, fallen oak branches and anything else you can find on the ground. It’s a communal activity that is organised by the community elders. Kids are encouraged to take part and lead the group. It’s a wonderful way to gain a sense of community investment and collaboration.
After the maypole has been pulled into place, it stays there, often until the first harvest is completed.
Of course, Midsommar marks the longest day of the year…with sun not setting at all in most parts of Sweden. It’s a wonderful excuse for a midnight swim or ‘kvällsdopp’.
There’s something exciting about being allowed to stay up late and you know it only happens on really special occassions. But, what ever you do, don’t forget the mosquito repellent.
Midsommar lunch and dinner is always eaten outside and part of a large group. Sharing plates, dishes and chairs is all part of the experience. Often accompanied by a BBQ in evening, every meal is accompanied by singing Swedish drinking songs and often speeches or poetry.
Every family has their own particular traditions, but it wouldn’t be Midsommar without a gathering round the Midsommarbord.
A traditional ‘Midsommarbord’ consists of picked herring, boiled potatoes spiced with dill and chives, boiled eggs with fish röm with knackerbröd and cheese.
Home-made strawberry saft
And, while the adults may all be drinking beer (alcohol free for most…) and aquavit, home-made Strawberry saft is the for the kids.
We’ve got the perfect recipe, thanks to WaffleHearts.com just in time for Midsommar.
Littlebearabroad’s recipe for home-made Midsommar Strawberry Saft.
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