Celebrating my first Midsommar in Sweden


Written by Katharina

23 Jun 2019

Forget about Christmas, Midsommar is the holy day of the year in Sweden!

When you read about Sweden and its culture in books, Christmas is often mentioned as the most important day of the year. After my first Midsommar in Sweden ↗️ let me tell you something: those are lies!

Sweden is a very dark country in winter. In summer, however, it never gets dark! In most parts of Sweden, the sky always remains somewhat or completely light during the longest nights of the year, depending on where you go. That is enough reason for Swedes to cherish the endless summer days and celebrate the midsummer sun.

Ever since I decided to move to Sweden, I was determined to experience the mysterious Midsommar.

Close-up of a child wearing a flower crown.
Midsummer/ Photo: Clive Tompsett/imagebank.sweden.se

Midsommar in a nutshell & useful information

The festivities always happen on a Friday between 19 and 25 June. The night you celebrate is called Midsommarafton. Saturday after is Midsommardagen.

Midsommar is so important that they dedicate an extra holiday to it and many shops have irregular opening hours during the whole weekend or are entirely closed.

Where to celebrate

Swedes traditionally celebrate Midsommar in the countryside. For example, on a cottage, somewhere in a tiny cabin out in the archipelago or anywhere else far away from the city.

A Swedish flag flying beside a red, wooden building.
Swedish village/ Photo: Katharina

I asked some locals for recommendations and finally decided to celebrate it 45min away from Jönköping in a place called Åsens by. ↗️ It is a Culture Reserve depicting what a Swedish village looked like over 100 years ago, including fields, forests, various animals etc. It was exactly the very traditionally Swedish Midsommar celebrations.

Usually, almost every village has Midsommar festivities, we have seen several ones on our way. Many municipalities have an event calendar online listing all Midsommar celebrations in towns and villages nearby. Just search for Midsommarfirande + your city, e.g. in Jönköping. ↗️

Dancing around the maypole

Before the actual celebrations can start, you need to pull up the maypole in order to be able to dance around it later!

Once that step is accomplished, you are ready to rock the dancefloor … uhm I mean dance around the pole!

Where I celebrated Midsommar, the celebrations were kicked off by a traditional folk dance performance ↗️ like it used to be centuries ago. All the dancers belonging to that group were wearing traditional Swedish dresses from the local region.

People dressed in traditional folk costumes dancing around a maypole.
Traditional dance performance/ Photo: Katharina

Afterwards, everyone in the crowd joined the typical Swedish dances like “Små grodorna” (little frogs). The best thing: no one is too shy to make a fool out of themselves! I have to admit, it is very funny seeing all those strangers becoming a giant family and jumping like a frog around the pole!

People of all ages holding hands and dancing around a maypole.
People of all ages dance around the maypole/ Photo: Katharina

However, if my real life tutorial is not enough to teach you the dance, I suggest you watch the first 2:30min  of the video below. Otherwise, let’s carry on!

Midsommar Fika

Obviously, another vital part of Swedish culture is fika! Hence, we could not miss trying this amazing rhubarb cake with a large strawberry and Swedish flag on top, accompanied by either vanilla sauce or whipped cream. An incredibly tasty midsummer dream!

Close-up of a rhubarb cake and vanilla cream.
Midsommar fika/ Photo: Katharina

Typically, Swedes also eat Strawberry cake on Midsommar. For dinner they have pickled herring and new potatoes together with some sour cream. In the supermarket, I have also seen many people buying massive amounts of salmon. Anyways, especially the dinner dish contains loads of dill!

Flower crowns

You might have noticed it in the media above, but many wear flower crowns. When I knew that I would be in Sweden over Midsommar I was certain that I want to have a flower crown! Most Swedes prepare them themselves by wrapping flowers and some green leaves around an iron wire.  I tried to make one myself and thought I can show you the process…

    1. Collect quite some flowers and leaves or buy them in the supermarket or flower shop. I found almost all flowers in the nature, so no need to spend much money on them. Buy some ribbon, I used yellow and blue.
    2. Cut the flower stems to a length around 5-10 cm, this will facilitate the whole wrapping process.
    3. Form a wreath out of the iron wire. It will serve as your base frame and should have a loop at each of its ends which you will use to close your wreath with the ribbon in the end!
    4. Always take a few flowers together and wrap them around the frame. Secure with cords or iron wire.
    5. Once the whole frame is wrapped in flowers and the flowers are fastened, check if it still fits and then bend the ribbon throught the loops to close your “krans”.
Close-up of a crown made of freshly picked flowers.
Me and my midsommar krans/ Credit: Katharina

Empty roads and so much joy

During Midsommarafton I expected Sweden to be incredibly empty. Still, reality went beyond my imagination. Out of 7 cars we spotted on the road over 30mins, 2 were German. Yes, Sweden is very calm and sometimes a bit isolated, but Midsommar festivities took it to a whole new level. I guess all Swedes hid under huge tents or pavilions that you could often spot here and there. Moreover, many yards were crowded with people enjoying the longest night of the year with their loved ones.

Two students wearing flower crowns.
Midsummer happiness/ Photo: Faramarz Gosheh/imagebank.sweden.se

Throughout the whole day, one could feel all the joy that sparks from within the Swedes. I think it is very special to see how they cheerish the light and that a whole country gets together to celebrate it. This is something that I have never experienced before, everyone looked so happy. I think Midsommar it is a lovely tradition and sets free so much energy! At the end of the day I was really overwhelmed by all the positive vibes that midsommar brings!

Cannot wait for next year’s Midsommar (19 June 2020)! 🌸🎉

A mother and daughter wearing traditional folk costumes and flower crowns.
Mother and daugther in traditional costumes/ Photo: Katharina

Written by Katharina

23 Jun 2019