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24.06.2021

Midsummer

Midsommar_kleiner.jpg

The Swedish summer festival

Games, drinking songs, floral decorations, delicious food and friends and family all around – this is what the long festivities to mark the summer solstice are all about. Midsommar is the most important feast in Sweden after Christmas. It is always celebrated on the Friday between 19 and 25 June. The official feast is the Saturday, which is known as ‘Midsummer’s Day’, but the celebrations start on the Friday, Midsummer’s Eve (Midsommarafton). People often party the whole night long, as the days are very long in Sweden at this time of year: the Sun barely sets before rising again. This article gives you the low-down on this amazing festival and the kind of dishes that are traditionally served to mark the occasion.

A Midsummer night’s dream

According to Christian tradition, the feast day of St John is celebrated on 24 June. Due to its proximity to the summer solstice, Midsummer celebrations are often associated with St John’s Day, although there’s no real connection between them. Fire, great food and music have always been part of the festivities. The tradition of the Midsummer maypole, the Majstång, first emerged in the Middle Ages. Majstång comes from the word maja, and roughly means ‘to decorate with flowers’. The maypole is made of wood, and family and friends traditionally work together to decorate it with branches and flowers and set it up.

This festival is steeped in magic for the Swedes, particularly in farming communities. Young women pick seven different types of wildflower and place them beneath their pillows, so that they might dream of their future husbands. The custom is not to speak of this, so they remain silent even while picking the flowers; chatting is thought to break the spell. People also weave flower crowns, which represent fertility and rebirth. Flowers and greenery are the focus of this feast, together with food and schnapps.

Fish, potatoes and strawberries

Many Swedes celebrate Midsummer by having a massive barbecue. Fish, new potatoes and strawberries are traditionally served at midday. Sill (herring) is pickled to give a wide variety of flavours. Lax (salmon) is also pickled and served with boiled new potatoes (potatis) with dill. Fresh Swedish jordgubbar – strawberries with lashings of cream – or a strawberry tart are served as pudding. Bought or homemade ice cream (glass) is a must. Schnapps (snaps), often home-distilled, is downed throughout the day, with the Aquavit brand a particularly popular choice. There’s a drinking song for every schnapps, along with a hearty ‘Skål!’ – cheers!

Swimming, skiing and playing

After all that hard work decorating the maypole, weaving flower crowns, eating and drinking schnapps, the party goes on. Having fun and being silly are part of any self-respecting Midsummer party, so games like kubb or the traditional femkamp are bound to be on the agenda. Femkamp consists of five different outdoor games, like croquet, sack racing or tug of war. In some places in Sweden, people make the most of the midnight sun by going for a midnight ski run or having a night-time dip in the lake. In Swedish Lapland, the sun shines all night long, so people party, sing, dance and play games for a full 24 hours.

Midsommar: the summer solstice festival where night becomes day, you can be as silly as you like, sing drinking songs and dance to your heart’s content, decorate everything with flowers and colourful crepe ribbons, and indulge in delicious food and schnapps, all in the company of your friends and family.

Skål för Sverige!

© © NGV mbH, Photo: TLC Fotostudio
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Swedish Mittsommer sandwich flan
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12 pieces
Medium
Duration total: 1:30 Std.
Duration: 30 Min.
Swedish Mittsommer sandwich flan
© © NGV mbH, Photo: TLC Fotostudio
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Homemade ice-cream cones
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10 pieces
Medium
Duration total: 1:10 Std.
Duration: 20 Min.
Homemade ice-cream cones
© © NGV mbH, Photo: TLC Fotostudio
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Recipe of
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Pistachio ice cream with mint
MC plus
8 portions
Easy
Duration total: 10:25 Std.
Duration: 25 Min.
Pistachio ice cream with mint