Midsummer in Sweden is A VERY BIG DEAL.
If you have ever been to Japan, think of it as the Nordic version of O-Shogatsu, or maybe Thanksgiving on steroids?
Everything closes for 3 days, all the stores, restaurants, everything.
Kalmar became a ghost town in a flash, with everyone headed out to the countryside.
I was really glad that we had made plans to be with my friend Joanna and her family over Midsummer, because:
a) spend time with my friend! and
b) it would really suck to be in a ghost town with everything shut for three days.
Joanna, and I, by the way, were friends in Waiakea High in Hilo, Hawaii.
She is actually of the Swedish-speaking minority from Finland (as was my great-great Grandfather), but has found her way to the island of Öland, which is where my great-great Grandmother’s family was from. How unreal is that?
She had invited us to spend Midsummer with her, and so we hopped on the bus over to Öland. We were promptly stuck in massive traffic. We didn’t mind at all: buses in Sweden are the perfect temperature, have huge, roomy seats and wifi (that actually works) on board.
Plus, it was fun seeing how many people on the bus were wearing a wreath, using bus time to make one, or how many people outside had a flower wreath on. It was through my careful and steady observations of all the wreaths that I drew my startling conclusion that flower wreaths must play a large role in a Midsummer in Sweden. 😉 winky-smile.
And her beautiful eldest daughter took my kids flower gathering to make their own Midsummer crowns
Joanna’s friends had a wagon that we all piled into and were carried by horse to gather leaves, fronds and ever more flowers. I swear to God, Sweden has SO MANY FLOWERS.
Having gathered the huge piles of branches, leaves, fronds, ferns, flowers, everyone gathers to wind it all into, onto this pole:
There was this glow in the air, everything was so achingly lovely. A desire to go with the flow, just let it unfold, was there with me and that’s what I did.
It was only when someone referred to one of the circular things on the pole as a “ball” (as in, “just need to finish this ball here”) when I took a closer look at the pole
Oh. That would be a huge pole… with two balls at the top. That is then supposed to be thrust into the earth and danced around. Hmm. I wonder what that reminds me of.
Raising the Maypole
The entire thing was like being inside a Bernardo Bertolucci movie, something all soft and dreamy and with great lighting.
People danced around the pole and sang songs that made them laugh and make animal sounds and jump like frogs and all kinds of delightful absurdity.
And we ate. Of course we ate.
Herring & Midsummer in Sweden
Herring is the ubiquitous fish of Sweden. Herring, along with new potatoes and strawberries (not all together though) are the morsels that scream, ‘SUMMER IS HERE!” and are served at Midsummer in Sweden.
Or so it seemed to me.
Micah was impossibly thrilled with that Herring pie.
As was I. That stuff was ridiculously delicious.
We talked and ate and frolicked and before we knew it, it was after 10pm – only still as light as it usually is around 5pm.
This midnight sun thing is for real.
We said our goodbyes – it was such a wonderful way to experience what felt like a slice of the heart of Sweden.
Laid the wreaths down, the kids put flowers under their pillows, and we all dreamed the dream of the dance draped in flowers.
Here are a few more photos from our time with Joanna and her family!
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Meriah Nichols is a career counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E). Deaf, with C-PTSD and TBI, she’s also a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.