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How to celebrate Midsummer like a Swede

Midsummer is one of the biggest holidays in Sweden and is typically celebrated outdoors. It is a celebratory day that consists of dancing, singing and lots of food and beverages.

How to celebrate Midsummer like a Swedefoto: Mikael Kristenson via
Elin Magnusson
created at: Mon Jun 07 2021| updated at:Mon Jan 17 2022

At first glance Midsummer might seem like a quite bizarre holiday, where the combination of maypole dancing, drinking songs and flower wreaths make little to no sense. However, as one of the most celebrated holidays in Sweden, Midsummer has become an essential part of the Swedish culture.

The origins of Midsummer is historically traced back to the celebration of John the Baptist’s nativity, which occurs yearly on the 24th of June. However, some historians argues that Midsummer comes from pagan traditions. Nevertheless, John the Baptist nor pagan traditions are not on top of everyone’s minds when celebrating Midsummer. Instead, the holiday has become a symbol for friendship, love, fertility and the arrival of the summer solstice. In the 1950’s it was therefore decided that Midsummer eve should always take place on a Friday. As a result, the  festivities always  occurs between the 20th and 26th of June.

A day of traditions
So what traditions are there during the midsummer festivities? First off, there is the famous maypole dancing and the well-known “frog dance”. Here, people of all ages join forces to sing-a-long and dance around the pole while simultaneously doing the traditional frog dance. The bizarreness of the custom is not lost, and if you are travelling or visiting Sweden during Midsummer,  the frog dance is a must-do experience.

Secondly, we need to discuss food. Swedish people, as you might know love herring in all of its forms. Unsurprisingly, most Swedes believe that there cannot simply be a  midsummer feast without herring  and early potatoes on the table. If you are not in favour of herring, do not fret. There will also be a buffet of different dishes and beverages and you will be able to indulge in Swedish cheese quiche  also known as “Västerbotten paj”, smoked salmon, eggs, strawberry cake and schnapps. However, be aware that the type of food might change depending on family traditions and location.

Another custom, that is highly associated with Midsummer is drinking songs, which in Swedish is translated to “Snapsvisor”.  During dinner, guests will burst out in song and chug down shots of distilled spirits. If you do not know the lyrics to the song, there is no need to worry as there will usually be a song booklet provided with all the important lyrics. So now you’ll be able to sing-a-long to “Helan går” without a care in the world.

Finally, flower wreaths is a must have during Midsummer celebrations. Traditionally, you pick the flowers yourself and make the wreath. However, for us non-creative folks it is possible to buy a store-bought flower wreath, which is something I am eternally grateful for. 

Popular midsummer spots
Lastly, If you are new in Sweden, it is quite likely that you do not know any locals or know where the festivities take place. Lucky for you, I have the answer.  All over Sweden you will find numerous of public celebrations in parks and green areas which are open for everyone. So I advice you to seek out your nearest local park and join the celebration.  If you are in Stockholm, Skansen is especially famous for their midsummer festivities.  However, If you are situated on the west-coast I definitely recommend you to take a boat out on the archipelago and visit Smögen, which is one of the most notorious hotspot during Midsummer.



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