Friday, July 10, 2009

Midsommar SwedeGirl and I were newbies to Midsommar in Sweden this year, and you'd think we were trying to make up for lost time. We went to no less than three midsommar pole raisings, and saw the local fiddle troupe four times. I can attest repetition is helpful for learning, as we all have the frog dance song stuck in our head now and can be caught whistling songs about fiddling and mischievous rabbits. So, for those who have never experienced the Swedish midsommar let me give you the run down. First, just look at the Swedish flag, it is like a sun in the bright blue sky. The nation worships the sun, which is kind enough to come out long and strong for half the year.

Birch branches are harvested and put in pots to decorate doors ways,
and even the gas pumps at the local store/ fill station!
The old stone rune carvings tell of sun worship, and its no wonder the life force energy that send the green cereal grasses shooting up to the sky and fills the fields with flowers raging in all colors is honored with a big pole, with balls. The sun has always been considered the male aspect of the life force, and the gentler, cyclical moon associated with the feminine. And it is no wonder the sun is honored in Sweden- it's seasonal appearance and disappearance are so marked. In November, it was twilight by 3:30 pm. Now, it is twilight at midnight for a few hours before the sun dips back up from the horizon and the birds begin singing at 3 am.

Our first Midsommar pole was in the local village, and there was rain- but inclement weather would never stop those fiddling, frog dancing, coffee drinking Swedes from having a good time!!
SwedeDaddy helped raise the second MidSommar pole, at the larger village festival.

Solstice, or Midsommar, falls shortly after school is out and a week after most of the pools open. In Sweden, it is the beginning of a short but valued season where maybe, just maybe, you can comfortably wear shorts, short sleeves, and go swimming. Most Swedes take the whole month of July off, so it is the kick off to summer vacation time for school kids and workers alike. The festivities of the day are partly private, and partly a community affair. It reminds me of how we are about 4th of July in the USA- in that it is the middle of summer holiday, you eat with your family but then go to a community event- on the 4th its the fireworks, in Sweden it is the midsommar pole raising and dances.

Here is the Swedish version of Fireworks- the clapping and stomping that concludes the midsommar pole dancing!

In the area we were visiting my husband's dad this year, we were lucky to enjoy a great troupe of musicians that play the traditional midsommar songs on the traditional instruments. One of the musicians was participating in his 61st consecutive midsommar as a fiddler in his village!

There are sacred midsommar dances, but the usual dances are for children, and are songs with easy to follow along movements, like a hopping frog, rabbit hiding in a burrow, fiddling, or washing/hanging/ ironing your clothes.

The pole is decorated with a garland of birch branches, and the wreaths with some of the many wild flowers are hung from it.
There are wildflowers everywhere at midsommar- it's just gorgeous!
(Now for some gratuitous kid shots!) The men raise the pole, a speech is made, then the music and children's dancing begins. And if there is one thing Swedes love more than the sun it is coffee, so it ends with coffee and a cinnamon buns, the standard Swedish fika fare.

At the last pole we went to, which was at a historical site and was combined with a church service, the priest concluded by saying "In the name of Jesus, go drink coffee!"
The midsommar dinner meal is usually lax/salmon, new potatoes boiled with dill, sour cream with fresh chives, sill/pickled herring, and strawberries.

Thank you for a grand initiation to Swedish Midsommar!


Jean B. Duncan said...

Very nice to see and read about your Midsommar. We had rain at ours here in New Sweden, Maine. Loved seeing the videos! Thank you. (I posted a link on my blog.)

Rose said...


The Thinking Southerner said...

WOW. This makes me want to move.

AnnaSara said...

I love that you got the song about how we're all laughers... and then everybody just laughs and laughs...