Midsummer, dancing around the Maypole

Midsummer, the de facto national day of Sweden. Perhaps its the fact that this part of the world receives so little sunlight all year round that the longest day in the year is worth celebrating.

In fact its so important half my office has left Stockholm for other parts of Sweden (because this day is celebrated back home, usually in the villages and towns).

Known also as St John’s Day, the day is (as its name suggests) the summer solstice, celebrating the longest day in the year (in Sweden that means sunrise at 3.32am and sunset at 10.08pm).

A traditional Midsummer celebration involves getting out of the city and into the villages and towns, dancing around a Maypole, drinking snaps, getting drunk,

and doing frog dances. Apparently everyone knows how to do the frog song, Små grodorna.

It’s hard to imagine adults doing it, but they do!

Midsummer also invovles sex, apparently quite a lot of it. In fact the Maypole and garlands resemble a fertility symbol (think of a male appendage). A male appendage stuck into mother earth, fertilising her and keeping her fertile for the next season.

I reckon this has to do, unsurprisingly, with the fact that midsummer also represents a sort of harvest festival. It is around now when chanterelles, berries and the fat of the land areready for picking, where fertile mother earth has given people things to enjoy.


Midsummer was also well accepted by the Swedes because it has pagan roots. The day is linked to the Norse gods Freyja and Freyr which have phallic symbols to represent them. Ancient Norse rituals invovled worshipping fertility and a rich harvest.

Midsummer is also a day with specially served food such as snaps and a light beer, pickled herring, meatballs, cured salmon (gravadlax) with crispbread finsihed with strawberries and whipped cream (sometimes in a cake form).

Herring, for one is not to everyone’s liking 😉

A celebration like midsummer is quientisentially Swedish. It is a celebration of nature, something Norse and Scandanavian culture takes very seriously, even the many church ceilings are painted with nature and not pictures of saints.

So sing along and do the frog dance!


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