Midsommarafton as it is known in Swedish or Midsummer’s Eve is a magic time in Sweden. If you are visiting for the first time the first thing that you will notice around this time is the light hours in the day. The sun goes down at more or less 11pm and is gone until 3am. The night darkness is still fairly light.Like there is a very bright a nd big full moon. This corresponds to the Summer Solstice or the longest day of the year for the northern hemisphere.
The summer solstice is a magic time for the Swedish and the other Scandinavians. It is their second biggest celebration in the year, after Christmas. And it has been celebrated since even beforethe viking times. The usually dates are a Saturday between the 20th and 26th of June.
Because Midsummer was thought to be one of the times of the year when magic was strongest, it was considered a good night to perform rituals to look into the future. Traditionally, young people pick bouquets of seven or nine different flowers and put them under their pillow in the hope of dreaming about their future spouse. In the past it was believed that herbs picked at Midsummer were highly potent, and water from springs could bring good health. Greenery placed over houses and barns were supposed to bring good fortune and health to people and livestock; this old tradition of decorating with greens continues, even though most don’t take it seriously. To decorate with greens was called att maja (to may) and may be the origin of the word majstång, maja coming originally from the month May. Other researchers say the term came from German merchants who raised the maypole in June because the Swedish climate made it impossible to find the necessary greens and flowers in May, and continued to call it a maypole. Today, however, it is most commonly called a “midsommarstång” (literally midsummer’s pole).
The ritual celebration brings with it it’s tradition. Originally, it was a pagan fertility ritual, in a way blessing the land and nature to bring the fruits and fertility of the soil for the following summer season, for a productive harvest. A productive harvest for the Swedish in the summer months means they have enough food to store for the unproductive months.
In these modern times, the big party involves the traditional dancing around the maypole, a fertility pole.
Traditional Midsummer songs and dancing
Dancing around the midsummer pole is often the highlight of the day for the younger Swedes, but the whole family joins in. People form a circle around the pole, sometimes if there is enough people two circles moving in opposite direction are formed. The dancing is relatively easy – you just go with the flow and maintain movement in one direction, and changing direction when the others do. Some of the traditional songs for dancing include a series of set movements that Swedes leaern from an early age.
This is a really good site given in depth information on the tradition, meaning, and typical party celebrations that take place in Sweden. Click here to see full article.
In some places the dancing festivities take place in traditional costumes, in other places they don’t. Then there is the food, the first pick potatos, strawberries, pickled smoked herring a Swedish staple, and the typical beer (öl) and scnapps, accompanied with the traditional Swedish drinking songs (snapsvisor). When drinking the Swedish raise their glass and say “skål-skoll” which means Cheers. Later on they light a bonfire where the festivities begin.
If you are in Sweden during on the 23rd of June you can find the main celebrations in Stockholm at Skansen Park, Slottskogen Park in Gothenburg, Bulltofta motionscenter in Malmo, or if you are in London you can find the celebration in Hyde Park.
Another awesome site with in depth info on Midsummers Eve click here
And for facts about Sweden visit the official site Sweden.SE
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