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Swedish Culture

Swedish Midsommar

May 11, 2021 By Emily Krumm

Swedes love summer. And it’s no wonder: After enduring a cold, dark winter (indeed, in northern Sweden the sun doesn’t rise for weeks, and even in Stockholm it begins to get dark around 2:30 p.m. mid-December), everyone flocks outside to enjoy the extended hours of daylight and warm(er) weather. The most quintessential Swedish summer celebration is one that we expect many of you have experienced, either with us or elsewhere: Midsommar. This holiday takes place on the nearest weekend to the summer solstice, around June 21. 

While parties are typically privately held at a sommarstuga (cabin), some cities or organizations host them for larger groups of members and guests. (Hej, that sounds familiar!The most well-known, and recognizable, symbol of the holiday is the midsommarstång, or maypole. In Sweden, just like at ASI, people gather around the maypole to dance and sing. Små Grodorna is the most popular form of entertainment – it translates to “small frogs” and seeing all ages dance to it is quite the sight! 

One requisite Midsommar ritual is making a crown of flowers (midsommarkrans). It’s said in Sweden that if you pick seven different kinds of flowers and place them under your pillow on Midsummer’s Eve, you will dream of your future spouse.

Food is an important part of the celebration, and the Midsommar smörgåsbord traditionally includes pickled herring, new potatoes, gravlax, anything with dill and strawberry cake for dessert. The staple drink is aquavit, but any form of alcohol (except for glögg, that would be strange) can be consumed! 

It wouldn’t be a true Midsommar Celebration without talk of the weather. Swedes, like Minnesotans, love to postulate about temperatures and precipitation from the sky. Undoubtedly on Midsommar, it will rain (which you know if you’ve been to several of ASI’s recent celebrations). That’s why we love the Swedish phrase “det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder” – meaning there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.