The Scandinavians are known for celebrating the longest day of the year in style. Good food with family and friends, and a party to remember – get in on the act with our delicious recipe ideas!
If you’ve ever visited Stockholm in early spring, you may have seen us standing quietly on a street corner or courtyard, eyes closed and nose pointing up towards the sky, quietly enjoying those first rays of warm sunlight. Long, dark and cold winters make one yearn for a bit of warmth but for Swedes it’s also the light; so when the longest day of the year approaches, we make it the biggest event of summer.
Midsummer in Sweden is magic; in the north the sun never sets and in the south there’s only a hint – a twilight zone – of night-time. We plan this day meticulously: location of celebration (countryside, often near the sea or a lake), what to wear (traditional folk dress or a romantic ‘blow in the wind’ maxi dress) and the company (lots of friends and family) is thought about months in advance.
The worry, clearly, is always the weather. This is an outdoor event; we pick wild flowers in the morning; we dance around the midsummer pole; we lunch outside and, ideally, we’d go for a cheeky dip in the sea. Usually it rains... but that doesn’t deter us. Dresses are paired with wellies and bright raincoats pulled out of cupboards; nothing will keep us inside. This is a celebration of light, the fertility of the earth and our unofficial start to summer.
We indulge in new potatoes, pickled herring, crispbread and heaps of strawberries and cream. We drink beer and schnaps. We barbecue. Children play outdoor games. Teenagers dream about future romance. Really, it’s not all that different here. I’ve lived and worked in Britain for the past 10 years and frequently discuss the weather with my colleagues. And Brits, just like Swedes, long for summer.
So, this year, I’m creating my own Nordic magic in Berkshire – and I think it’s an idea everyone else should adopt here, too. There are a few adjustments to the menu (Scottish salmon, English strawberries and Devon cream), but the theme stays the same; I’m inviting family, friends and neighbours to celebrate summer Scandi-style while (hopefully) lapping up the sun... how very British!
Myths and magic
Celebrated as one of the most magical nights of the year, in Sweden and other Nordic countries, there are lots of different traditions
Seven flowers and a thirst quencher
Want to know your true love? This is the night to find out. Midsummer eve folklore says a young (single) woman should pick seven flowers in complete silence, and place them under her pillow if she wants to dream about her future husband. Alternatively, eat something salty and legend has it that you will marry the man who turns up to give you water in your dream.
The midsummer pole
According to some historians, the pole was brought to Sweden from Germany sometime during the Middle Ages and is said to be closely related to the Maypole. However, as spring arrives later in Sweden than in Germany, Swedes moved the tradition to Midsummer. Hmm, perhaps we should do the same.
Be inspired this summer...