Today we celebrate midsummer in Sweden - one of the most popular hollidays besides Chrismas and Easter. In a country where the sun hardly raises during the winter, the light nights of the summer are magical and has a very strong inflict on the swedish spirit. So ofcourse we celebrate the brightest night of them all.
Someone who checks her calendar can ofcourse object that the sun isn't on the highest until Sunday 21. Yes, that goes for Sweden too. But at some point the government decided that Midsummer was to be celebrated on the friday closest to the 21st. And so we do.
Not only does Midsummer take a central place in the hearts and souls of the swedish people, but it's also surrounded by a lot of traditions and a lot of mystique.
There's the food. SOS - Sill, Ost och Snaps (pickled herring, cheese and schnaps) is to be found on every dinner table today, along with new potatoes and, for dessert, fresh, swedish strawberries and cream. Historicly, Midsummer was often the time for the first harvest of strawberries and potatoes, and though we can get this almost all year round now (wich BTW is really weird!), these foods are absolutely cruical on Midsummer.
And than the traditions. One of the most popular images of Sweden is probably the raising of and dancing around the Midsummer pole.
It's a very high cross, dressed in leaves and flowers that is an ancient symbol for the fertility of the field. A pledge to the God of harvest. The pole is traditionally dressed by women and children and raised by the men in the village. Then we dance dances like Små grodorna (little frogs), Så går vi runt kring ett enebärssnår (Thus we walk around the junpiper bush) and Vi äro musikanter (we are musicians).
Midsummer is also a big day for folklore and mystique. The most common tradition in this is that the girls, before they go to bed, shall pick seven kinds of flower under absolute silence. The flowers are placed under the pillow and if you've done it all right you should dream of the man you will marry.
This tradition are in some places even more complicated as you are to walk backwards, seven times, around a well or jump over seven fences. All in complete silence!
In some parts of the country it was said that if you by midnight sat down where three roads meet, and kept absolutely silent, you could see your future. Mostly it would be your future husband coming down the road. But if you were out of luck you could se your own death.
A girl could eat "Dream porridge" - a very salty porridge before going to bed. The man that in the dreams handed her a glass of water was her future husband. She could also sit silent beside a well during the night to see that face of her future husband in its surface.
The nature and the flowers had extra magical forces during this night. The fern would blossom. The dew at Midsommar could cure desises, make bread taste better, make the animals stronger and the love life better.
I hope you all have a lovely Midsummers eve!