About the Swedish Midsummer Festival Guide 2022

This is that time of the year where celebration is in full swing. People have looked forward to this joyous season especially after the rather long and dreary Scandinavian winters. Sweden’s Midsummer Festival or ‘Midsommar’ is the second most important holiday after Christmas of the entire year. It is celebrated close to the summer solstice that is on 21st June. This is to highlight the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Midsummer Eve is observed in several countries and is a national holiday in both Sweden and Finland.

In Sweden the holiday is on Friday which falls between June 19th and 25th. In Finland it is on a Saturday that is between June 20th and 26th. Even then the festivities are already commenced on the Friday evening, prior to the main event. This main national holiday is celebrated with close friends and family in a summer cottage away from city life. Everyone has the choice either to claim the day for relaxing or partying according to their likes. 

Finland is well-known for its “white nights” and perhaps Midsummer’s is the whitest of them all. Midsummer’s Eve which is at the end of June is the official indicator of the arrival of summer season. The Midnight Sun also plays a major role in the festivities in the northern parts of Europe. However, the fact that Finland is popular for its white nights is rather accurate. This is because it doesn’t get dark in either the southern part of Europe regardless of the sun’s position. 

Activities that take place during the Festival 

During this time many Scandinavian natives travel to the rural parts of the country for Midsummer festival celebration. They all gather around a flower-festooned maypole (majstång). The celebration usually starts at noon when friends and family visit the nearest park or archipelago to enjoy a small picnic. They gather to sing and dance for it is a custom that is believed to be a part of the fertility rites.

Sometimes the first dance is done by a troup wearing a traditional dress before everyone else is invited. The highlight is the Små grodorna (The Little Frogs) dance. Here people jump around poles pretending to be frogs. For a warm welcome to the holiday season, Scandinavians make preparations. They clean and decorate their houses with fresh flowers. In Denmark for the holiday traditions people sing “Vi elsker vort land” meaning “We love our land,” a patriotic gesture. They gather around a bonfire to sacrifice a symbolic straw witch. This is in the commemoration of the church-sanctioned burnings of witches in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Midsummer Festival lunch:

In the late afternoon is the Midsummer Festival lunch much like that of Easter and Christmas. The absolute must have are potatoes with dill, salmon and sour cream with chives. Traditional cuisines are enjoyed during this time. These are sill, the pickled herring, smoked fish, potatoes, strawberries, beer and schnapps. Sill is a favorite Swedish holiday dish that comes in many varieties. Swedes prefer making their own version rather than buying it.

Other exquisite gustatory palettes include skagenröra (a mix of prawns, mayonnaise, crème fraiche, lemon and dill). There is also västerbottenpaj (a cheese quiche).  The drinking and outdoor games call for beer and shots of different kinds of snaps. These include akvavit or vodka. In ancient times Midsummer was the wedding season and people cast love and fertility spells. Now lighting bonfires or bathing in saunas are two fun activities people enjoy. If you are in a country cottage then you have the opportunity to indulge in barbecuing, boating and fishing etc. 

Historical Background of the Midsummer Festival

According to historical traditions the bonfire or ‘kokko’ was lit up to ward off evil spirits and ensure a good harvest. Making noise and being loud while celebrating is just a sign of driving away all the negative thoughts and misfortunes. Particularly young people in cities have brought back the energized open-air dances in the Midsummer Festival. In Helsinki these take place away from the city center on the Seurasaari Island. If you get quickly overwhelmed by large crowds and loud sounds, the city is a viable refuge for you.

Midsummer in the city has an eerie atmosphere as most of the streets are desert. Moreover, the Midnight Sun mythology plays a significant role in the Finnish folklore tradition. This belief centers on the longest day of the year which is Midsummer or “Juhannus.” For instance one tale states that a young maiden put seven flowers under her pillow on a Midsummer night. This resulted in her future fiance appearing in her dreams. Additionally, the post-party night swims are always so wonderful. The Midsummer party traditions hold countless festivals all over Finland. The party lasts all night, even extending to early morning time. They are end by a cool night-time swim with friends on this hot June day. 

Swedish Nordic Museum:

A report from the Swedish Nordic Museum included the reasons for the origination of Midsummer festival celebrations. This was basically due to the Christian holiday for John the Baptist that took place on the 24th of June. Similarly, instead of Midsummer falling on any random day of the week, it was decide that it should be celebrate on Fridays between 20 and 26th June. Midsummer was not celebrate in the pagan pre-Christian times. However, it is believe that there were other festivities to welcome the summer solstice.

Midsommarstång or maypole which is the integral part of the celebration originat in Germany. This was probably in the late 17th or the early 18th century. It might relate to the fertility theme and may be take as a phallic symbol. The midsommarstång is decorate with green garlands and flowers and placed in the center of the town so people can dance around it. There are also superstitious and magical notions. Such as the belief that at night supernatural beings are most active. This may thus be the best time to collect healing plants and try to predict the future.