Originally celebrated on the 24th of June to mark the beginning of summer, Midsummer or Midsommar as we call it here in Sweden, was moved to the weekend between the 20-26th of June in 1952, after
the Swedish parliament decided Midsommar should always fall on a weekend. Although it’s celebrated all over Sweden Midsommar is not widely celebrated across the rest of the world, this brings us to the question, what is a Swedish Midsommar?
Questions of its origin produces mixed answers, but it is believed to be an old pagan solstice ceremony celebrating the point in the year at which the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. As the old ways died out it was later adopted by the Christian and Catholic churches in relation to the feast day of St John the Baptist.
The old religions believed that nature harnessed a great power and magic and as a result flowered wreathes were worn as crowns to bring good health over the coming year. The flower crowns are still worn to this day and are part of the reason Midsommar celebrations are so colourful and enticing.
The magical myths surrounding the day still linger on hundreds of years later. One such myth is depicted in one of the many Midsommar songs and says that if an unmarried girl wants to find love then she should place 7 different flowers under her pillow and she will dream of her future partner.
Bonfires used to be the main attraction at Midsommar but as the Swedes already light up bonfires on Walpurgis night they started to use the maypole (majstång) instead and now decorate it with greenery as the Germans do.
A time for drinking, dancing and myths made for lovers, this day is nothing without a Midsommar meal. Snaps (a strong spirit type liquor) and non-alcoholic drinks such as lingonberry or elderflower cordial are a typical Swedish go to. Let’s not forget the mighty feast to go with them, herring, boiled potatoes, salmon and summer berries like strawberries are served in abundance in true smörgåsbord style.
The day is the longest of the year and the parties go on well in to the night all over Sweden. If you’re visiting, you won’t be hard pressed to find a celebration to join in. Us Swedes take Midsommar very seriously and the festivities are definitely something to experience at least once in your life time.
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