Midsummer, an observation of the longest day of the year, is celebrated in each of the Scandinavian countries. Midsummer, originally a pagan holiday, is celebrated on the day of John the Baptist and is now held on the weekend closest to the summer solstice.
In Sweden the celebration takes place around a maypole that is trimmed with garlands of flowers. The word majstang (maypole) has nothing to do with the month of May. The custom att maja means to decorate with green leaves and branches, and at midsummer this is done freely. The maypole is raised on an open grassy area and the celebrants join hands and dance around it to tunes played on an accordion or fiddle.
In Finland everyone goes to their favorite lake shore where they build a bonfire, which is lit at midnight, and they dance. Since midsummer was originally a pagan holiday, a number of superstitions are associated with the celebrations. It is very important to have birch in the house to guarantee future happiness. The Finns also hang birch wreaths on their cows’ horns to protect them. When the cows return home in the evening, the wreath becomes part of their meal.
In Norway and Denmark midsummer is also known as Sankt Hans Aften and is celebrated on the eve of John the Baptist Day.
In Norway customs date back to pagan times when tribute was paid to the powers of the sun god with bonfires signifying the defeat of darkness. Often there is a procession that begins in the early evening that is led by a musician. It is a tradition to light a bonfire and to dance. Hot dogs, or pølser, are popular midsummer fare around the fire. On this evening the magic creatures such as trolls and huldurs are invisible partners in the merrymaking.
In Denmark bonfires are also an important part of the celebration. Danes gather for a picnic, and after dark a bonfire with an effigy of a witch on top is set ablaze. A rocket-like firecracker is concealed in the witch’s clothing which, upon ignition, represents the witch’s return to Bloksbjerg, a mountain in the Black Forest and the home of the devil.
Create your own Midsummer celebration and enjoy our splendid midsummer menu.
Our Splendid Midsummer Menu
Most ingredients available in our old world meat market and online!
- Matjes sill (herring)
- Boiled new potatoes with fresh dill
- Cold cucumber salad
- Wasa crisp bread, cardamom bread or limpa
- Swedish “Midsommar” Cake (Click here for the recipe… )
Suggestions for Creating the Atmosphere
- Have your meal outside
- Decorate your table with wildflowers, wooden maypoles and Swedish flags
- Make flower rings and wear them in your hair
- Create a maypole with branches and wildflowers
- Learn a ring dance and dance around your maypole
Fill the air with Scandinavian music!