Swedish people are like Canadians, only more attractive.
Friendly, socially progressive, globally-minded, friends of the great outdoors, almost fluent in English, I have nothing but good things to say about them.
So of course when Karin Simonsson (of travelling with me in Colombia fame) invited me to come visit her in her native Gothenburg, the answer was a resounding ¨heck yes!¨ Assuring me that June was nothing but midnight sunshine and flowers, we made plans to have our visit coincide with the annual Swedish Midsommar celebration.
Yes, that means midsummer.
The Swedish celebration for summer solstice, one might be led to believe that indeed there would be sunshine and flowers. Ha. North is north my friends and despite trying our best to dance the season in, we were thwarted by cold winds and wet skies.
Mother Nature = 1, 1500 year-old Swedish Tradition = 0.
Yet the rain did little to dampen our spirits (ha… get it?).
Celebrated throughout Scandinavia, Midsommar is the most important day of the year after Christmas. Key elements include raising and dancing around a maypole (majstång or midsommarstång), listening to traditional music, and if your hipster sensibilities are high, wearing traditional folk costumes as you dance around said pole singing silly songs. In addition, many wear crowns made of wildflowers on their heads (including myself).
Because no holiday is complete without sexual allusions, some say that the Midsummer pole was a phallic fertility symbol meant to impregnate the earth. The connection to fertility is linked to the suspicious increase of births in March… what better way to use the longest day of the year?
This is obviously the explanation I choose to believe.
Similarly, an old Swedish tradition instructs young maids (err, the unwed) to pick seven different kinds of flowers before bedtime midsummer’s eve, and then sleep with the flowers under their pillows. This leads to dreams about the boys (or girls?) they will get married to.
It’s Swedish science, don’t argue.
Food also features prominently in the celebrations as the year’s first potatoes are consumed, complemented by pickled herring (yep), sour cream and chives. For dessert there are strawberries (and cream!) galore, all topped off by plenty of local beer and a god-awful liquor called aquavit that stings the back of your throat as your friends force you to drink it.
What can I say, I loved all of it.
Especially our modern twist of heading to the lake at 1am to go swimming followed by cramming 40 (beautiful) Swedes (and 2 Canadians) into a packed sauna.
Essentially Midsommar is a hipsters paradise, and luckily Gothenburg has more than their fair share of the demographic to celebrate it.
While Midsommar might have stolen my heart, there are oh-so-many more Swedish shenanigans to follow – stay tuned!