How Scandinavians Celebrate Midsummer Eve

Midsummer, a festival that has ancient roots is celebrated in Scandinavia and northern Europe. Even though good weather is not guaranteed, it is possible to enjoy a pleasant evening and have a great time. In Sweden, outdoor celebrations like maypole dancing or seafood buffets are popular. Bonfires are common in Denmark and Norway.

What can you expect from Sweden?

The festival is rooted in pagan traditions that celebrate the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. However, Midsummer Day falls on Saturday in both Finland (and Sweden). The main celebrations take place the night before, on Midsummer Eve. Many workplaces are closed, and Swedes who work abroad often return home to attend the events. Celebrations in other parts of the region are less elaborate and more local.

A green, open space is the number one requirement for a Swedish Midsummer celebration. You’re nearly ready to go!

Food is the other key piece of the puzzle. An smorgasbord is a buffet that includes a variety of dishes. There are many types of herring, including boiled potatoes and chives. Other seafood options include gravlax (cured Salmon) and lots of shrimp.

Fresh strawberries are a must for any midsummer table. They can be topped with a cake or poured over a glass of aquavit. This is often called snaps by Swedes, but it’s not to be confused with wine schnapps. Aquavit a distilled spirit that is flavored with caraway or dill–or both.

You can expect flowers in your hair, singing, dancing and floral wreaths.

What can you expect from Scandinavia?

Some people in Denmark and Norway celebrate Midsummer, but it is not a national holiday. The celebrations are known as Sankthansaften in Denmark and Norway. They take place the day before Saint John’s Day, June 23. This celebration combines the pagan history with the Sankt Hans celebrations to remember John the Baptist.

Many Norwegians and Danes continue centuries-old traditions of lighting bonfires. It is believed to keep the land fertile while others believe it will repel witches.

Many coastal communities in the country still have bonfires lit. Although many are decorated with witch dolls, this practice is becoming more frowned upon in Denmark and other countries.

Most bonfires are local, small events. Alesund residents stack wooden pallets to create a tower that rises over 100 feet in June. On the longest day of each year, large numbers of people gather in boats to watch the bonfire burn.

In 2016, Alesund’s bonfire builders went a step further by breaking a world record. The bonfire reached 47.4 metres (155.5 feet) and made headlines all over the globe.

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