Today is the day that Swedes celebrate Midsummer. Swedish midsummer celebrations always take place on the nearest Friday to the longest day of the year.
The Summer Solstice
Rooted in paganism, celebrating the summer solstice is not limited to Sweden. All over the world, various groups will mark the summer solstice with their own ceremony and tradition. In Sweden, the entire country joins in with celebrating the middle of Summer.
Midsummer in Sweden is the time of year that Swedes consume the most alcohol. This alcohol consumption is even higher than New Year's Eve.
The Thursday before midsummer sees the largest sale of alcohol of the year. Sales are more than three times the usual amount recorded on a regular Thursday.
The celebrations are associated with beer and spirits, called snaps. Snaps are served together with a dinner of pickled herring, new potatoes and dill. During the meal, snaps-songs are sung, a scene reminiscent of the stereotypical Viking.
Trygga Barnen, a non-profit organisation offering support for children in families where there is alcohol abuse, want to encourage Swedes to have an alcohol-free midsummer. This is in response to the high levels of alcohol consumption at this time of year.
This year, they have released an alternative snaps-song. The lyrics highlight the fearfulness that children can feel when their parents and other adults have had too much to drink. “Imagine if I could be someone else when midsummer comes”, the lyrics read.
The history of midsummer
Originally, midsummer was associated with lust and love. It was a youthful celebration and people would dance until morning. The days and nights were warm and spirits were high.
In the farming community, midsummer marked a break in the working year. The growth of the crops and the burst of spring was believed to have mystical powers.
In the North of Sweden, the sun never goes down at this time of year. This brings many tourists to the North, to experience the midnight sun.
The Midsummer Pole
A representation of natures virility is seen in the Midsummer Pole, sometimes referred to as the May Pole. This is decorated with wildflowers and then raised to stand in a clearing or a field. Both adults and children dance around the pole and sing.
One song now heavily associated with midsummer is “small frogs”. While singing this, people hop around the pole, imitating a frog.
It is believed that the midsummer pole has its origin in Germany, coming to Sweden during the medieval times. The earliest records are found in a collection of engravings from the late 1600s.
Today, the celebrations generally start in the afternoon and stretch long into the night. Many people still stay awake until the following morning, enjoying the nighttime sun.
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