Fun with kids in Sweden: celebrating Midsummer


The actual summer solstice, also known as the longest day of the year, occurred on June 20th in the northern hemisphere this year. However, in Sweden the real Midsummer celebrations are happening today, June 22nd. Officially, the day of Swedish Midsummer's Eve is always the Friday that falls between June 19th and June 26th in any given year.

In Sweden, Midsummer's Eve almost rivals Christmas as the most popular and celebrated holiday of the year. It's a huge, nation-wide, party, and if you're visiting the country during this time, you should absolutely try to attend a Midsummer's Eve event if you can. Fair warning: there is excessive drinking at some Midsummer celebrations (especially any parties involving young adults...), but as long as you find a family-oriented event it is a lot of fun for kids.

Midsummer at Skansen in Stockholm, Sweden.

Many visitors to Sweden end up in Stockholm, and if you're there, you can always head to Skansen for a taste of Swedish Midsummer.

For most Swedes, the ideal Midsummer celebration would include warm, sunny weather (this does not always happen: I've celebrated Midsummer's Eve in a winter-coat), and heading out in the countryside, preferably to a summer-house or cabin. Not everyone celebrates it exactly the same way, but there are some things that are usually present:
  • A midsummer's pole or may-pole - Essentially a tall pole that is dressed up with green leaves and flowers, sometimes ribbons and other decorations too. Often people will dance around the pole.
  • Special songs and dances - There are lots of traditional games and dances that are performed at big events, and even small family get-togethers. Usually "SmÃ¥ grodorna" ("Little Frogs") is part of the dancing and singing. This dance involves a lot of jumping around pretending to be a frog, while singing about how frogs have no ears or tails. Yes, it's silly, but kids love it.
  • Food and drink - Pickled herring, fresh strawberries, new potatoes, and Swedish "snaps" (very strong alcoholic beverage) for the adults is usually present. These days, many people also include a barbecue as part of the celebration.
  • Picking wild flowers - You can pick flowers to decorate the pole, and to make wreaths for your hair. You can also get right into some old folklore and pick seven kinds of flowers (while being absolutely silent) and then put them under your pillow when you go to bed. This is supposed to make you dream of the person you will marry.
  • Staying up late - If you're north of the Arctic circle, you might experience the midnight sun, but even south of that the nights are very short this time of the year, and not all that dark. Staying up really late and just experiencing the magic light of that twilight between dusk and dawn is a pretty special thing.
Visit Sweden has lots of great tips and information about Swedish midsummer and where and how to celebrate it if you're in Sweden. For some general information about this holiday, you can also read this Wikipedia entry.

Photo thanks to Skansen's website.

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