Written by Alison Allfrey
In a world which has, until recently, moved at an ever-faster pace, there is something very reassuring and peaceful about the way in which Sweden adheres to a well-established calendar of festivals throughout the year. It gives a rhythm to the seasons, as well as heralding their secrets.
Lucia celebrates light in the midst of winter, Valborg the banishing of winter and advent of spring, and perhaps most glorious of all, Midsommar seems to be the ultimate saluting of the wonders of the Swedish summer. And it’s this Saturday!
What does it consist of
Whereas Swedes often keep a low profile during the winter months, the coming of spring and summer give rise to a new sort of energy – and nowhere more so than at the myriad of Midsummer celebrations which will happen this weekend, this year, like every year.
Living in Sweden, you cannot miss the incredibly special character of summer – it is a full-scale show of nature at its most giving with seemingly endless nights, air fragrant with generous blooms blowing in the breeze, water glimmering with light, islands just waiting to be explored. Something to celebrate indeed.
As with other key festivals, Midsummer is something which few ignore. It is a wonderful opportunity for communities to congregate around the symbolic midsommarstång (maypole), honed out of greenery and – in our case – old brooms and bicycle tyres and painstakingly decorated with flowers until it becomes an exuberant focal point for joyous dancing and casting all cares aside.
Villages and towns will gather in open spaces, from famous parties in the Dalarna region to well-known celebrations at Stockholm’s Skansen, to anywhere you care to visit. The tone is open-hearted, welcoming, unprepossessing, so don’t be afraid to join in and get a real taste of Sweden at its most elemental.
What to expect
Expect men and women dancing in typical dress, a feast of salmon, smoked herring, Västerbottenpaj (a classic cheese tart) and special strawberry cake, all bedecked in wildflowers and washed down with generous amounts of aquavit spirit. Prepare to let your hair down – you may find yourself, frog-like, dancing to the famous strains of Små grodorna (Little Frogs), leaping and prancing with the best of them.
This is something utterly charming and whole-hearted. Something which harks back to a time more simple and, given the current challenges of the COVID-19 situation, Midsummer may prove a particularly welcome antidote. It certainly bestows an extraordinary feeling of timelessness and tranquillity, as the hours move inevitably onwards with only the faintest darkening before another day takes its place. This is truly a night which will be etched in your memory.
“An evening without end bathed in pools of light, gently waning but disappearing only momentarily around midnight before the sun reasserted itself and the new day began. A light almost ephemeral at times, gently persistent, beckoning you to savour and enjoy its every moment for itself and cognisant of the counterpoint of winter’s darkness. A night to remember; a bubble.”(excerpt from So Sweden – Living Differently)
About the Author
Alison Allfrey is a British writer, linguist and communications consultant who lived in Stockholm from 2012 to 2015. She published So Sweden – Living Differently, a memoir of her time in Sweden and inspiration for ex-pats living there in October 2019, available on Amazon as below. She has also had articles published about Sweden in The Local, Nordic Style Magazine, Sverige Magasinet and fika-online.com. Alison lives with her family near Winchester in the UK. She is an avid traveller and loves exploring other cultures.