22 May, 2019

Celebrating Midsommar

What makes everyone in Sweden happy? Summer. Life in Sweden can be sometimes challenging due to the long and dark winters. But it changes when comes the summer and the light brings people together. In Sweden, there is even one special day when people are united to literally have a party celebration of fertility and of the light. It’s called – Midsommar.

Midsommar has that special bond that brings friends, relatives and villagers together to a field or a park in a city. There we dance and sing around a Maypole. Some eat classical picnic food, some indulge into the Swedish traditional sill, potatis och snaps! Don’t forget! Midsummer can’t be without strawberries! Hopefully, the weather God Thor gives us sunshine with blue sky as the Swedish flag. But despite the weather people are still smiling and dancing. Midsommar is as important as Christmas in Sweden, instead of expecting gifts, everyone just rejoices that summer has arrived.

Modern Midsommar

Without a doubt, Midsommar is the most phenomenal event to a newbie in Sweden. If you stay in a city, you might think you are in a bad apocalyptic movie. Most people leave the cities for the countryside, therefore the city suddenly becomes quiet, although it is the opposite situation on the E4 road.

Midsommar, 2013. Foto: Elina Nomad photography

The Midsommar was originally a festival for pagan farmers, with traditions that existed long before the arrival of Christianity. They were celebrating the fertility of nature and welcoming the light after darkness. Now we might say, most Swedes celebrate the 5-week vacation starting from Midsommar.

Traditionally, the most common start of the day is to pick wildflowers to make wreaths to stick on a maypole. The maypole is the key to the whole celebration, representing fertility. When the maypole is raised, people gather around to dance and sing. Most importantly it is the culmination of Swedish midsommar, don’t stand aside but jump in the crowd. Singing a song about a frog with Swedes, that’s fun!

What’s so special about Midsummer?

It is the magic of the bright night. The lightest and longest day that created many various mysterious legends and rituals which some people still do until today. The one day of the year when collectively everyone in Sweden are genuinely happy! Who wouldn’t be happy about summer days after the long dark winters? Eller hur?!

Midsommar, 2013. Foto: Elina Nomad photography

My experience in a community Midsommar

This story is about a community outside Stockholm, where people came together to build a Midsommar festival. People of all ages and backgrounds came together all night celebrating. The community was a large group of friends and nearby villages and towns. In some ways, all of these people knew each other. It seemed like a big family of 100 people.

As a newbie in this community, everything seemed exciting. I lived on this farm as a wwoofer (organic farm volunteer) for a month. Then suddenly on a Wednesday night, the Swedish farm solitude changed. A group of people arrived to start preparations. At first, I felt confused by all the activity on the farm. I knew we would hold a Midsommar party, but the amount of work seemed like it was going to be larger than I expected. Indeed, it was.

Midsommar, 2013. Foto: Elina Nomad photography

The best lesson I had about Swedish social codex was that Midsommar is the day when rules don’t exist, I could approach anyone without any difficulties. At the party, I was busy with errands to help out as a volunteer. However, I still got to experience a very different Midsommar celebration from what I was used to in my home country.

Midsommer, 2013. Foto: Elina Nomad photography

The magical moment

In my home country Latvia, Midsommar is equally important as in Sweden, so in some ways, it wasn’t all new to me. Swedes love to explain what Midsommar is all about, so maybe I was the boring “foreigner” at the party who already knew what Summer Solstice was. The party itself was amazing. It was not just a big party, but a magical gathering of a community, all together sharing the happiness, smiling, laughing and dancing. People of this community enchanted me, I fell in love with Sweden. Looking back at this event, I have not experienced any other Midsommar like this ever again. It was one of a kind.

The morning after, Djs turned off the music, and people moved to the fields. Everyone laid down in the field of wildflowers to watch the sunrise. That’s one of the magical midsummer rituals. Stay awake until sunrise and experience that wonderful natural phenomenon of light. It was three days of fun, but it felt like one day. So, the goodbyes on Sunday morning were difficult, as I had met many new friends and we didn’t want to leave this little Midsommar “paradise” already.

Midsommer, 2013. Foto: Elina Nomad photography

How to find a party like this?

It’s not easy. I know for instance this farm doesn’t create a festival like this anymore. If it’s your first year in Sweden, try to find a village or town in the countryside where they create a traditional Midsommar party open to the public. Afterwards, it becomes more of private, but one good idea – rent a cottage with friends or go camping, and create your own version of Swedish midsommer. Midsommar, after all, is all about being outdoors in nature.

Just put on a wildflower crown and you are already fully ready for a midsummer party!

Midsommar, 2013. Foto: Elina Nomad photography

If interested to see more the full story: elinanomad-adventurediary.

Elina Nomad
"The queen of the roads in Sweden", that's how my newly met Swedish friends called me. To Sweden, I came as a hitchhiker, a nomad with a smartphone capturing my moments. During my exploring, I met a "different Sweden" which is not written about in tourist guides yet. I became curious and fascinated by "Swedishness" which I also explored in academic studies a bit. Currently, I am more or less off the road as a freelance photographer and community manager, and content creator. Occasionally I am a house sitter in the Skåne countryside. About my adventures, I keep a diary blog and Instagram. Hope my stories inspire you to explore Sweden more!