It’s the official start of Summer! At least in Scandinavia, it is.
I never really noticed it before but after moving to work abroad, I realised how odd we Scandinavians can be! I mean, we dance around a pole and sing about frogs, we set our old and useless wooden possessions aflame and sometimes even add paper/wooden witches to the pyre. Not to mention, the game the Danes play where they steal the aforementioned pole from others and you have to try to steal it back with stealth (well that depends on how much drink you’ve had).
If you don’t know what I’m talking about - then you aren’t Scandinavian and being honest, it's probably for the best, you got off easy. You don’t have ‘’Kou ack ack ack, kou ack ack ack,kou ack ack ack ack kaa‘’ running around your brain on a day to day basis.
With all this in mind, let's go on a little journey and learn more about your Scandinavian neighbours - I will be your guide so sit back and enjoy!
Innocent enough yes? Midsummer is more commonly known as ‘’Sankthans’’ (St. Johns Day). It is where we all get together outside and burn
stuff (elegant I know), nothing wooden is safe. We try to build the biggest bonfire and beat out our neighbours… see where this is going?
No one here needs to be reminded of a little thing called gravity? There have been a number of catastrophes throughout time (especially when the bonfire falls over).
It is thanks to the common belief in Witches here in Norway that they are magical and wards off evil, that people add paper/wooden Witches their bonfire. Now, we don't dance around the fire singing of Frogs, that would be the Swedish!
Here, midsummer is one of the most important days of the year so much so that from June 19th-24th are bank holidays. All of this is because of the May Pole!
Traditionally it is in the shape of an arrow with 2 rings at the end, it is dressed elegantly with green plants and topped with the Swedish flag. Once complete, it is set up in a large field on Midsummer’s Eve and on the big day itself - the Swedes eat plenty of good food with ''matjessill'' (Don’t Google you won’t be glad you did). Matjessill is served with fresh potatoes, chives, sour cream and for dessert? Strawberries!
Throughout the day, the Swedes have many traditions - the more common being the dancing around the Maypole singing ‘’Små grodorna’’ (Little Frogs). The dance is hilarious - Youtube this!
Another tradition I am pretty fond of is the ‘’Nubbe sång’’ and this is sung before taking a shot of Schnapps. With 18 different Schnapps and 18 different songs, it really is great fun.
With all this talk of alcohol - I am reminded of Denmark - here they add Vitamin D to the beer because the Vitamin D insufficiency is quite high and beer is consumed more than milk (allegedly!).
Denmark may be the smallest country in Scandinavia but they do have a rather large ego… (Compensating for something?)
Midsummer here is also called Sankthans and how they celebrate is quite similar to Norway except the fact that they do sing songs by the fire, especially “Vi elsker vort land” (We love our country).
Once the Maypole is erected, the game is on - the stealing of the pole has begun! It is essentially like capture the flag only there is no violence allowed. It is quite easy to steal as its a weekend full of merriment and alcohol so the Danes aren’t exactly worrying about it. However, if you ever find yourself in a position to steal a Maypole you will see how much fun it can be.
There you have it, Scandinavia’s Midsummer in a nutshell!
There is just 1 more ritual that I think is something worth mentioning as it is done throughout Scandinavia.
The 7 Flowers:
A common custom where young lads & lassies pick 7 kinds of flowers and put them under their pillow on midsummers night. Legend says you are to pick 7 kinds of flowers in silence, climb over 7 farm fences and then put the flowers under your pillow and that night you will dream of your future partner.