American summers are filled with long-anticipated family vacations, patriotic historical holidays, and pool-side picnics. The kids are out of school and parents are working hard during the week to enjoy the long, summer weekends creating lasting memories. Meanwhile, across the pond, the Swedish community celebrates their summer a little differently.
The Midsummer celebration has been tradition in Sweden for hundreds of years, with the earliest recorded celebration in the 13th century. Prior to the 1950’s, Midsummer was celebrated at the high point of summer, June 24th, or the longest day for the region. In 1952, Swedish parliament decided that Midsummer should always take place over a weekend and declared the third Friday of June as the official holiday date. The observance of Midsummer now varies between June 20th and June 26th each year.
Midsummer is celebrated soon after the start of Sweden’s five-week annual summer vacation which gives everyone time to prepare and enjoy the festivities. With Sweden’s vast countryside in full bloom and large gatherings taking place to celebrate the beauty of nature and warmth of the sun, it’s no wonder Midsummer Eve is such a big deal!
Families typically begin the day by picking fresh flowers and making wreaths to decorate the maypole. The maypole is raised up in a central location in or near the town and then decorated with the flowers of each family and invited guests. Traditional songs and ring dances such as the Sma Grodonra’ (frog dance) are performed.
Midsummer is rich in tradition including a traditional Midsummer Menu that differs slightly depending on region. Regardless of where, your sure to find a smorgasbord of delicious foods and desserts including pickled herring (as Swedish favorite), boiled potatoes topped with dill, red onion, sour cream and chives, grilled and smoked salmon or ribs, cheese pies, crisp bread with butter, and possibly fresh strawberries with cream for dessert. With a celebration of this measure, a bit of drinking will surely be found, specifically, Schnapps called brannvin is served before and alongside the feast. Some regional traditions state when an empty glass is refilled, a drinking song must commence!
A centuries-old celebration wouldn’t be complete without a bit of superstition. Legend has it, young women are to pick seven various flowers on their way home from the celebration and lay them under their pillows. That night, their future husband would appear to them as they dream. Weddings are also quite popular this time of year in Sweden as the sun is out and the flora have bloomed.
The Swedish Midsummer celebration was originally celebrated as a summer solstice confirming that the harvest has been planted and to goad Mother Nature into providing a bountiful outcome. Now it is a time to celebrate growth, new life, and the beauty of nature. It is a chance for generations of Swedes to gather together and celebrate their common heritage. This summer, while you are out enjoying the warm sand and refreshing waters of the USA, take a moment to think about your own roots and celebrate the seasons as your ancestors did.
Stay tuned and follow Gunilla on our bakery Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/americandreamcakes/ as she returns to her Native Sweden during this time of year and posts of her journey visiting local bakeries and family!