Stockholm: Celebrating the sunny Swedish Midsummer

Midsummer in Stockholm
A midsummer parade in Stockholm. Photo by jamieca.

On December 22, 2010 in Stockholm, the sun came up at 8:44 in the morning and went down at 2:49 in the afternoon. That’s not a whole lot of daylight. At all.

Today (June 25, 2010) in Stockholm, the sun came up at 3:32 in the morning and will go down at 10:09 p.m. That is a whole lot of daylight.

It is the difference between the summer and winter months that makes Midsummer such a special holiday in Sweden. Celebrating the summer solstice is actually a public holiday in Sweden, although not necessarily on the actual Midsummer day. Instead, the Friday and Saturday of the summer solstice are celebrated, ensuring that every year, everyone gets the day off.

Midsummer celebrations

A small maypole. Photo: DeCyner

Traditionally, the day begins with the dressing and raising of the maypole. This involves collecting shoots, green branches and flowers to decorate the pole before it is finally raised.

If you find yourself at a traditional midsummer celebration, you may notice people wearing what is referred to as folkdräkt, the traditional folk dress. These vary for each area of Sweden and differ between men, women and children. Before the festivities really begin, though, you need to be sure that you have collected enough green (and bendable) twigs and flowers to create a crown to wear while dancing around the pole.

Once your crown is complete, you’ll be ready to celebrate the summer. Dancing around the maypole is surprisingly easy, even for those, like me, who have no rhythm whatsoever. Songs include “Små grodorna” (The Small Frogs) which involves hopping around the maypole like a small frog. Easy enough really. Of course, it’s not always that easy and often times a group of dancers will demonstrate the traditional dances associated with the celebration.

The midsummer meal is also a big part of the celebration and often times (depending on weather, of course) is eaten outside. Various types of sil (pickled herring) and potatoes make up the majority of the menu, followed usually by strawberries and cream. Akvavit, a strong Swedish liquor, flows freely, along with beer.

Skansen in Stockholm

Each year, Skansen, the outdoor living museum in Stockholm, plays host to a three-day Midsummer celebration (minus the midsummer meal with akvavit).

This year, the celebration starts on June 25, 2010 and will be complete with the raising of the maypole, dancing, singing and even traditional folk dress. The event is popular with Swedes and tourists alike and is a great way to experience a traditional Swedish midsummer. Visit the Skansen Midsummer site for the schedule.

Getting there:
Bus: Line 47 from Finland or line 44 from Karlaplan
Ferry: From Slussen to Djurgården

About the author

Marcus Cederstrom
About the author: Marcus Cederström was born in Sweden and moved to the US just before his sixth birthday. After 17 years in the US, Marcus moved back to Sweden. His daily adventures and musings are chronicled in his blog, A Swedish American in Sweden.
Posted in: Stockholm
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