Sofia from the Nature Travels team, who was born in Sweden, tells you how to hold your own Swedish Midsummer celebration.
What time of year should I have my midsummer party?
The Swedes always celebrate on the Friday closest to the summer solstice. The summer solstice is normally around 21st-22nd June. However, as you and your friends probably don’t have the Friday off work I would probably choose to have your party on a Saturday.
You normally start at midday and go on long into the summer night, so I would choose a Saturday close to the summer solstice. Summer solstice is when you have the longest hours of daylight and hardly any dark, and this time of year is the perfect time to have a summer party in the outdoors.
Where to have your Swedish Midsummer Party
A midsummer party needs to be held outdoors – and I mean in all weathers! You find a meadow and you set up your tables and chairs in a long row, creating a long table where everyone sits together. If you can’t escape to the countryside, I guess a garden would do.
It’s very common to have tarpaulins or something similar like a gazebos to put up to protect from rain or to hot sun, at least as a backup just in case the weather isn’t the best.
How do you dress for your Swedish Midsummer Party?
It’s difficult to give a clear rule how to dress for a Swedish Midsummer party, but here are some things to consider:
Most people dress in summer clothes: summer dresses for the girls, nice shorts and shirt, etc, for the guys, but you also need to have back-up clothes for rain, as the party and games continue even if the rain comes. You also need to bring warmer clothes – as it’s in the beginning of the summer, those summer evenings aren’t always as warm as one would like.
So what to do during your Swedish Midsummer Party?
– Dress the maypole
(if you don’t own the land you are celebrating on, you might want to skip this part)
It all starts around midday with picking flowers and twigs of birch leaves. Once you have enough (you need a lot) you dress the maypole with them. The maypole is two wooden poles that are tied together and you tie the leaves and flowers around these to cover the poles.
Once the poles are all covered you can also create two garlands to hang on each of the arms of the maypole. At this point, some girls take the opportunity to create garlands for themselves to have around their heads.
– Dance around the maypole
The next thing to do is dance around the maypole. If you don’t have a maypole, I’m sure you can find something else to dance around! Everyone joins in the dances and you do it as a large circle around the pole with different movements in different dances. In Sweden there are certain dances everyone does and other that differ between families/parties. But I’m sure that with a little help from Google you can find some dances to do together.
– Midsummer lunch
Now, when everyone has worked up an appetite, it’s time for the midsummer lunch. In Sweden it’s common that every family brings their own food and drinks, but that everyone sits together around the table. In Sweden the food almost always includes pickled herring and meatballs, but I think you can choose whatever food feels like summer food for you.
During the lunch there is always schnapps (shots of alcohol, which can be drunk all at once or in sips). However, before a schnapps can be drunk, everyone on the table needs to sing a Schnapps song together. So at a midsummer party there is a lot of singing going on. For schnapps songs I’m sure Google can be helpful again – or make up your own!
To create a schnapps song, use a melody that everyone knows, write some fun/silly drinking lyrics to it and then end with “Cheers!” Give the lyrics out to everyone so they can sing along.
– Midsummer games
After lunch it’s time for the games. This is the chance for everyone to get to know each other better. Everyone gets divided up into teams – team dividing takes some thought, you need everyone to already know one person in their team or be comfortable without knowing anyone (some people naturally are), but otherwise you need to split up families/friends into different teams, as the whole point of this is that everyone gets to know each other. It makes the evening more fun.
Once everyone is divided into teams the games will start. Normally there are 5 different parts (a “femkamp” in Swedish), where one part is a “tipspromenad”, or quiz walk. A “tipspromenad” is a quiz with multiple choice answers, but each question is posted separately on trees along a walk in the forest and the teams give their answers on a piece of paper they hand in to the game leader at the end of the walk.
The other 4 parts are things like, who can throw a rubber boot furthest while looking the other way, spoon races, tasting secret things in jars,like herbs, different beers and guessing what they are, etc.
– Midsummer fika with strawberry and cream cake
Now when we have worked up a bit of an appetite, it’s time for midsummer fika. Fika is the Swedish word for having a coffee break and drinking coffee with something like a cake or a biscuit. For a Midsummer Fika you need more than one cake or biscuit! We eat Danish pastries and a whole assortment of biscuits and then we round off with a massive strawberry cake.
Also here, everyone can bring their own coffee and one type of cake, which then gets shared with everyone on the table, together contributing to the huge assortment of cakes.
It’s customary that the host brings the strawberry cake. Those in favour of it also have some cognac, whiskey, Bailey’s, etc with the coffee. At the end of the fika, often the winners of the games are announced! After the fika there’s some time to relax and socialise with your newly-made and old friends.
– Midsummer dinner
The last and thing on the schedule is the midsummer dinner. Here some choose salmon and new potatoes and a dill-based sauce, while others choose to have a barbeque. If everyone is bringing their own food, a barbeque is an easy choice and if you are out in the forest it’s something that can be cooked there and then. A good thing to go with the barbeque is potato salad or other things that don’t need to be cooked.
With the dinner you of course have wine and beers, but at a midsummer party it’s customary to bring out the schnapps and the songbook again!
As a dessert, often coffee and the leftover cakes and biscuits from the midsummer fika are circulated around the table again.
Now what’s left is just to enjoy the longest summer evening of the year in fun and laughter with your friends and family – though I know that sometimes the evening ends up with someone playing summer songs and a few ending up dancing on a jetty or in a clearing!
Have fun and “Glad Midsommar”!
Sofia from the Nature Travels team