While a midsummer celebration is not as popular in the United States, it is a major holiday for most regions in Europe. Just as the name implies, midsummer is the period of time in the middle of the summer; it has varied among cultures under different names and traditions, but the holiday occurs primarily near the summer solstice.
In Scandinavia, Midsummer is a celebration of the summer solstice. The event takes place between June 19 and June 25. It will be June 24th in 2021. Traditionally, a maypole is created, decorated with flowers and greenery, and raised during the day, which people gather around to dance and sing (try learning the Norsk song, Sommer Kommer). Some people wear folk costumes to honor their regions while celebrating.
The evening before midsummer is also a celebratory event called ‘St. Hans Aften’ or Jonsok-kveld’, which is named after John the Baptist. Depending on your location in Norway, the event features an evening of partying, delicious food, music, dancing, and the burning of huge bonfires. It was introduced to replace the traditional pagan festival for summer solstice or the longest day of the year, as with so many church festivals.
Public parks, gardens, and summer cottages across the region celebrate Midsummer. In fact, almost anywhere outdoors space available. Traditionally, midsummer night was the time of magic and mystery when plants acquired healing powers. Walking barefoot in the dew as the night turned to dawn helped you stay healthy. Wearing a wreath of flowers in your hair is an old symbol of rebirth and fertility.
Midsummer Games & Food
Popular outdoor games for all ages include the classic croquet, sack races, and kubb – a fun, Viking inspired lawn game. The objective of kubb is to knock down ten small wooden blocks (‘kubb’) and one large wooden block (‘the king’) by throwing wooden sticks. There are many variants of the game, and players have developed their own understanding of playing it.
Like most holidays and celebrations, midsummer revolves around eating and drinking. Favorite dishes include fresh potatoes cooked with dill, pickled herring, gravlax, fresh berries, and Akvavit – a spirit flavored with caraway or dill.
Do you celebrate midsummer or summer solstice? What activities or traditions do you enjoy around this time of the year? Share your story in the comment below.
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