The Swedish (as well as many other European cultures) will be celebrating the summer solstice this week and weekend in what the Swedish refer to as Midsommardage. During this celebration of the longest day of the year the Midsummerpole or midsommarstång (similar to a German maypole) is decorated and raised for people to dance around. Herbs are picked with the thought that magic is at its strongest on this day so the potency of these are at their height as well. In the Middle Ages, greenery was picked and used to decorate the Midsummer pole which was thought to bring fertility when danced around. Later, the greens were also hung above the doorways to houses and barns to bring health and good fortune to those living under those roofs.
These traditions became more and more overlooked as populations grew and cities became more civilized but resurged in the 20th century. In its current form, Midsummer is celebrated on the Saturday closest to June 24th and celebrates the beginning of a five week vacation for many. Cities and shops close down and the streets are deserted as people go to the country to be with family and friends, much like our Independence Day but on a greater level.
We will be celebrating Midsummer by escaping the city ourselves to the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival in Estes Park this Sunday for some pickled herring, boiled potatoes, drinking songs, and dancing. Whatever your heritage, you’re welcome to join or celebrate the longest day of the year in your own way, but whatever you do, enjoy the extra daylight!