I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine
~William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, II (i).
Sitting at the foot of the Midsummer pole. Western archipelago of Sweden, 2008
The weather is ever changing this Midsummer’s Eve, which marks the ancient middle of summer or the summer solstice. It is during this time that even south of Sweden experiences hardly any night and where night is marked these few days with a long dusk that turns to dawn.
Midsummer’s Eve atmosphere, in the southern archipelago of Gothenburg.
A midsummer celebration was a Swedish tradition already before Christianity. Traditionally it was the summer solstice that was recognized as a time of celebrating fertility, the pretty straightforward symbol of which is the Midsummer Pole, covered in mid-summer plants which were also thought to have miraculous healing powers. Still every year in Sweden people will gather and dance around the Midsummer Pole. It’s a point of tremendous festivity in Sweden where in foregone years, bonfires were even lit to protect against evil spirits that were believed to roam freely as the sun turned south again.
The weather is as grey as the picture reflects these Midsummer days but it certainly did not stop the Swedes from dressing and raising their Midsummer Pole, roping in their kids to bring them to dance around the pole with “The Hopping Frogs” and all kinds of traditional summer songs. Standing by the sideline, it was sometimes difficult to tell which group thought the singing and dancing most fun, the children or the adults. At times, the children seemed more skeptical about the whole thing, while the parents seemed to let go of their office stress, and were truly having FUN!
Apart from dancing around the Midsummer Pole, other activities such as lottery was drawn. All lottery tickets were placed into antique rolling bins, each about a 100 years old, still in their original green paint.
There was no candy win (nor coffee win, at another lottery) for me this year, but I was certainly enjoying myself (video).
I’ve also attached some beautiful pictures (below) by Anders Thorsell, from ffagency.com, on Midsummer celebrations in Härnösand, which is further north from Stockholm. Enjoy the pictures and Glad Midsommar!
Picture gallery by Anders Thorsell, taken in Sundsvall and Härnösand: