Me. An Indonesian who is still drowning in the novelty of life abroad in Sweden. Ha!
Midsummer. All I knew about midsummer, before I moved to Sweden, was a name of perfume series from Oriflame, the Swedish cosmetic brand. Haha. It used to be my favorite. I didn’t know that midsummer was one of the most important days in the Swedish Calendar. Turns out, midsummer is really a big deal in Sweden (and any other Nordic countries actually). According to Routes North, Midsummer tradition in Sweden is rooted in the pagan sun-worshipping cultures long before the Christian era. It was believed that the time of year around the summer solstice, when the darkness of night is replaced by a magical twilight, would have held special significance for people in northern climes. Now, in secular Sweden, midsummer is more a social event to be close to nature and spend quality time with family and friends.
Midsummer is originally celebrated in every June, 24. But, in 1952, when the Swedish Parliament decided that Midsummer should always be celebrated on a weekend, the observance of Midsummer now varies between June 20 and 26. This year, the Midsummer Eve is on Friday, 23rd of June, while the Midsummer Day is on Saturday, 24th of June. So the celebration is usually started from Friday afternoon till Saturday morning non stop since the day is so long (even in northern Sweden the sun isn’t really set in midsummer) and Swedes wants to make the most of it.
As the day of sunlight, friendship and nature, Midsummer is always celebrated outdoor, so public parks and open-air museums are the best locations. This year, we decided to go to Sofiero in Helsingborg. It is one of the Swedish Royal Family’s Country Mansions and is also a huge park with a view of Helsingør in Denmark. I’ve never been there before so I think it’s a good place to spend the day. Besides, we normally need ticket to enter the park but on Midsummer Eve, it offers free entry. Yay! 😀
In a country where summer doesn’t last long, it is understandable to celebrate every sunshine of it. This is also the reason why midsummer is welcomed with huge enthusiasm in Sweden. If you have experienced the cold and darkness of Swedish winter, you would appreciate any sun rays you get on summer (even if it is combined with rain and cold wind). This year Midsummer Eve was also a rainy one but it didn’t stop the people (including me) from having some fun. We can always wear raincoat after all. Haha.
The symbol of midsummer is a flower crown/headband locally known as krans, so we made our own personalized krans from soft branches and wild flowers we picked up in Lunds Stadsparken on our way to the train station. We took the train to Helsingborg and it was unsurprisingly full. During midsummer, everyone leaves the city and goes to the countryside so all the public transports are really busy on that particular day. We also queued for quite sometimes to take the bus to Sofiero. Once we arrived in Sofiero, we went to the main area and found out that the midsommarstänger, or the maypole has been raised. This meant, it was time for the ring dance. So we joined the crowd and sang and danced around the pole. The best known of all the songs performed is Små Grodorna (Small Frogs), which is the Swedish version of Kodok Ngorek (seriously!). We sang this song by hoping around the pole like frogs. It looks silly for sure but it is part of the fun.
Another part of the celebration is actually eating herrings and strawberry cakes, but we were still doing the Ramadan fasting at that time so we didn’t eat any of those. Then, for unmarried girls, it is said that if you pick seven types of flowers on midsummer and place them under your pillow, you’ll dream of your future husband. Well, I didn’t try this part either because I got a husband already so don’t ask me if it’s true or just a hoax 😀
Overall, I think my very first midsummer in Sweden is quite something. Despite the wetness and the coldness, it is always good to take part in Swedish tradition and learn about it. Though it’s late already, allow me to say:
Glad Midsommar från Sverige!