Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Celebrating Midsummer in Sweden...

Midsummer is HUGE here in the Nordics.  It is the most important holiday in the year and most unique here - quite uniquely pagan?  It's usually celebrated between 19 - 26 June but the main celebration usually falls on a Friday.

I've only celebrated it once and I think S proposed during midsummer back in 2010  (the date tends to vary each year though)

So, midsummer is almost upon us and before I could ask 'what's so grand about midsummer'... S has made plans and booked for another weekend trip to Uto..  I get a lecture whenever I ask "What's so grand about midsummer???" As far as I'm concerned, it's just another excuse for people to drink more ;P haha  *ducks*

The last time we got into the Midsummer spirit, we celebrated it in Skansen (it's something like our Ballarat back in Melbourne.  Great place to visit to learn more about Swedish culture)..

A little bit about midsummer:  It consist of everyone (children, adults etc) dancing around the maypole.  While dancing around it, traditional music are played and songs are sang associated with the holiday.  (think Swedish songs, and me just miming and looking silly!) Some people adorn traditional costumes or crowns made from wild springs and wildflowers around their heads.  The year's first potatoes, herring, chives, sour cream, beer, snaps and first strawberries of the season are traditionally eaten.  Drinking songs and extremely important for this feast, and many of them drink heavily =P

Some history about Midsummer:

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).
In earlier times, small spires wrapped in greens were erected; this probably predates the maypole tradition, which is believed by many to have come from the continent in the Middle Ages. Others argue that some form of Midsummer pole occurred in Sweden during the pre-Christian times, and was a phallic fertility symbol, meant to impregnate the earth, but as there were no records from those times it cannot be proven, and this idea might just be a modern interpretation of the pole's form. The earliest historical mention of the maypole in Sweden is from the Middle Ages. Midsummer was, however, linked to an ancient fertility festival which was adapted into St. John's Day by the church, even though it retained many pagan traditions, as the Swedes were slow to give up the old heathen customs. The connection to fertility is naturally linked to the time of year. Many young people became passionate at Midsummer, and this was accepted, probably because it resulted in more childbirths in March which was a good time for children to be born.

Skansen 2010:  Flowers and leaves were decorated all over the pole before it gets erected in the middle of the field

This was S back in 2010.. so smug looking!!!  I love rummaging through past photos =)

Traditional wear

This little girl is all dressed in the Swedish colours.. so gorgeous!

Crowns around the head..  People were just everywhere... 

In all.. shapes... and sizes... *cough*

The traditional 'dancing around the maypole'
Would be interesting what we'll be doing this year.  We are going back to the cabin in Uto with 5 other people this time round.  Let's hope the weather is a lot better (I see rain this weekend!!! sigh!!  come on Sweden.. It's summer!!  Give us some good weather!!)

Until next time..

Happy Midsummer!!!