Sweden and Midsommar

Happy Midsummer! Here is how to celebrate like a Swede.

Saturday the 26th of June is Swedish Midsummer this year and you can expect the Swedes to be living it up! Midsommar is a great time, filled with dancing, laughter, food, and flower crowns. And don’t worry, it is nothing like the 2019 movie!

Midsummer has always been a celebration of summertime and welcoming the season of fertility (it isn’t an accident the maypole is shaped that way!). It is the lightest night of the year and considered a magical time, once for love and healing. Tell fortunes, see your future partner in a dream, and watch water was turned to wine and ferns to flowers – or so the fables go!

Midsummer is the true start of summer for most Swedes. And for those taking five weeks of vacation, they typically start the week of midsommar, which means Midsummer also marks the start of semestertiden (vacation time)! The festivities begin with a trip to the countryside with the aim of being settled in at the summer cabin (sommarstuga) in time to celebrate Midsummer Eve (midsommarafton).

And then you are ready for the three key activities to celebrate midsommar like a Swede:

Dance Around the Maypole (midsommarstång)

Many municipalities will erect maypoles in open public areas, such as a folketspark (the people’s park), and allow for the locals to gather and take turns dancing around the maypole. Dancing around the maypole has been a Swedish tradition since the 1500s! But back then the maypole wasn’t the only thing that was covered in foliage – “green men” were said to decorated their houses and farm tools with foliage, too.

It is also very common to join in in decorating the maypole (midsommarstång)! People often begin the day by picking flowers and making wreaths to place on the maypole. Don’t forget to save some flowers for your flower crown, too!

One typical maypole dance is Små Grodorna (The Little Frogs), where participants dance around the maypole singing about little frogs and the body parts that frogs lack, namely “ears” (öron) and “tails” (svansar). They do this by making floppy ears and tails with their hands as they hop around the maypole. One comment I saw perfectly sums things up: Swedes are “just little children in adult bodies.”

Want to know more about Små Grodorna? Read my post here!

Want to see some non-frog related dances in action? Watch here!

Of course, midsommar celebrations will look a little different this year due to Covid-19. But don’t let that stop you from partaking in the next celebratory activity!

Dress Appropriately

There is a dress code for Midsummer that includes wearing a flower crown/wreath (midsommarkrans) on your head. Women also wear a white dress (or one with a flower print), and men wear either a blue or white shirt.

Want to make your own crown? Watch this.

Eat the Food

The photos above are from our midsommarfest (Midsummer party) last year! While we were eating vegetarian, we did still have some classic dishes. A Midsummer menu includes pickled herring, boiled new potatoes with fresh dill, sour cream and chives, and either grilled salmon or spare rib. Dessert must include strawberries! How good does that jordgubbstårta (strawberry cake) look?! Swedes wash it all down with a cold beer and schnapps (snaps).

Can you guess what song (snapsvisa) all Swedes will be singing? Find out the answer here.

Have a Bonfire

Just like with Valborg, Swedes love to celebrate midsommar with a bonfire! This has been a tradition since the 6th century AD throughout Europe – longer than dancing around the maypole! This tradition is more frequently found in Sweden’s southern parts, perhaps because the sun doesn’t set in Northern Sweden at this time of year.

You might be wondering why midsummer is at the start of the summer instead of in the, say, middle. Well, I am too honestly! But with another shot of snaps we will forget the question even plagued us! Glad Midsommar! Skål!

Fun Facts:

  • Midsummer Eve is always a Friday between June 19th and 25th.
  • Folklore says that if a young woman puts seven different flowers under her pillow on Midsummer Eve she will dream of her future partner!
  • Midsummer is a popular time for weddings and christenings. Flower arches are mandatory.
  • In the past, midsommar was mostly seen as a young person’s party. But in the 1900s, all mill employees were given pickled herring, beer, and schnaps (snaps) to celebrate too and soon the whole country was joining back in with the festivities.
  • An unusual high amount of Swedish babies are born at the end of March each year, ~nine month after midsummer. Celebration of fertility is right!

Tess’ Tips:

  • Midsummer and Midsummer Eve are public holidays in Sweden so be ready for many things to be closed for celebrations!
  • Now is a good time to break out any Swedish flags you have!
  • Buy your alcohol ahead (today!) to avoid the lines!

Hope you learned some new Swedishness today and I’ll see you in the next post!


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