How to celebrate Midsummer – the Swedish way
If you have been for a while in Sweden, you have already found out that Midsummer is one of the most important holidays for Swedes. The weather might usually not be that good but everyone is gathering with friends and family and they all celebrate together on the longest day of the year!
Do you wonder how you will celebrate Midsummer in the most traditional way? We’ve got you covered! Read how our team members usually celebrate Midsummer and start getting ready!
What is your favorite Midsummer food and what is the food that will not be missed from a Midsummer Swedish table?
Herring (sill) and fresh potatoes (färskpotatis) are my favorites. Meatballs will not be missed!
My favorite Midsummer food is basically that it is a large buffet of varying goodies. I especially love the fresh potatoes that we have on our table (färskpotatis). We tend to boil them with dill and then sprinkle some freshly cut dill over… you can never have enough dill on Midsummer. I don’t care much for it, but we tend to have various types of pickled fish on the table: herring (sill). It is usually sill in mustard (senapsill).
Then we, of course, have meatballs, potato gratin, eggs with caviar (Kalles Kaviar, not the fancy stuff!), gravlax, smoked salmon, sour cream, mustard, hovmästarsås (a typical mustard and dill sauce for the fish), knäckebröd, cheese and other types of bread. Sometimes we have ribs, but this is not that usual anymore For dessert, we tend to make a strawberry shortbread cake (jordgubbstårta). I love it!
The Midsummer dress code
As a woman, I usually wear a summer dress (OBS not a black one!). I think it is important that the dress makes it possible to play the Swedish outdoor games we usually play during Midsummer. Even though it is a cold day (which it unfortunately usually is), the dress code is still the same. In Sweden, we rather freeze outside at midsummer than eating and playing inside I would say.
White dresses for girls are nice and for guys maybe a colorful shirt with jeans or other pants. Black clothes are definitely a no go!
Describe your typical Midsummer day!
I’ve spent a few Midsummers at Skansen and recommend it to anyone who wants to get the full-on experience. It can get a bit too touristy though. If you have a Swedish friend, and the right connections, the Stockholm archipelago can be the best option. People tend to leave central Stockholm and go to an island where someone has a summer house. I enjoy that much more than Skansen because it isn’t as crowded. It’s quite nice at it is close to nature as well.
I have, however, spent most of my Midsummers toward the north, in the Dalarna region. I enjoy it very much! It is said that the traditional Midsummer celebrations come from there. People dress up in traditional clothing and some old man always whips out the accordion and we all dance around the Maypole (that we raise first, of course). The weather can be a tad bit cold and, for some strange reason, it rains often during Midsummer. But people still go out and dance… unless it’s pouring down.
Midsummer is as holy to my family, if not more, as Christmas is for many people. I always celebrate Midsummer together with my family, in the Stockholm archipelago. We usually have relatives over for Midsummer lunch (sill, rökt/gravad lax etc.) and let Farfar (Grandpa) “skrubba potatisarna”, which means “to scrub the potatoes”. Someone is in charge of creating a Midsummer pole, using wood and flowers from the forest nearby. Then we dance around the Midsummer pole to various songs. A particularly famous one is “Små grodorna”, or “Little frogs”. During “Små grodorna”, where everyone jumps around the pole with their hands behind their backs, sounding like frogs. Don’t believe the craziness? Watch this clip:
After the dancing, we have a “Femkamp”, or the pentathlon, which I am always in charge of. The Femkamp includes games like:
- Hammering a nail into a piece of wood with the least amount of strikes
- Relay races
- Tying a pen to a string attached to your waist, and aiming to get the pen through the opening of a glass bottle placed on the ground
- Throwing balls into a bucket
- Running around the house with a potato or egg on a spoon without dropping it
- “Norsk fylla” or “Norwegian drunkenness”, in which you put a branch to your forehead and lean it onto the ground, spin for several laps, and then run towards a goal (And no, grandpa does not always participate in this game)
Where would you suggest for someone to go for a traditional Midsummer experience?
For any Midsummer celebration, traditional or untraditional, I would recommend anyone to leave the city! Go out into the countryside or the forest and enjoy Swedish nature in its most beautiful summer gown. Listen to the wind through the trees, smell the flowers and listen to birds singing and bumblebees humming. Nature is the place to be on Midsummer’s Eve.
It’s not just about celebrating Midsummer, though! There are lots of things to keep you busy all summer, and one of our favorites is, of course, learning Swedish! Between celebrations, you can join us at our Summer Intensive Courses; week-long, half-day classes with all our digital materials included.
Spend part of your summer with us, and learn how to navigate life in Sweden by speaking our language!