Midsummer’s reflections 2020

Pickings from the garden.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

On Saturday, 20 June 2020, Sweden celebrated Midsummer’s Day. A celebration that traditionally coincides with the summer solstice. Usually the inevitable – How’s your Midsummer this year? question, would be answered with the similarly inevitable reply; – As usual. Plus 10 degrees, and rain. – Ah, same as New Year’s eve then, – Yep.

It might sound sarcastic but really, I can’t think of a sunny Midsummer’s Day since I first landed in Sweden in 2002. I remember when I first landed that I wrote home to my parents and told, “Sweden got only two seasons leh”. They had winter, which was cold and wet, with possibility of some snow, and summer, which was cold and wet, with no snow. This year was certainly different. There’s been as much sun as you could wish for, in Sweden. I can only assume that this, in some kind of quantum entanglement of weather, is dependent on me having relocated to Tromsø, the very arctic part of Norway. Living in Tromsø by the way, has given me a completely new understanding of winter, and summer. Tromsø also has only two seasons. Winter, without daylight, and summer, with daylight. Endless dayligt. Sunrise in February and sunset basically in November. This said, to be fair to Sweden, I have over the years managed to get some nice midsummer pictures in my album labelled “Sweden”.

The favourite midsummer activity among the adults, besides hopping around in the mud circling a rain-soaked Midsummer’s Pole with the children, is to enjoy pickled herring and the first potatoes of the season together with generous quantities of schnapps. This is followed by fresh strawberries of the season that usually manage to ripen in the fields just to this very weekend. Another much appreciated evening activity is a barbeque. Doesn’t matter if the skies threaten a royal tropical thunder storm on the day. Because it’s not Midsummer’s, if you don’t eat outdoors.

Incidentally this also happens to be the very peak of the mating season for Swedish teenagers, so it leaves not much peace and quiet for the elderly. Since Midsummer Day celebration is rooted deep in Swedish tradition, festivities are all well-organized and imprinted into Swedish DNA. The grown-ups focus on the barbecue, tell sailing stories into the early hours of the night, and the kids do, well, whatever.

A cozy cloud in the midst of the midsummer rain comes in the form of well-grounded homegrown strawberries. As the newspapers had it, this year, the Swedish strawberry farms had problems finding enough hands to help with the harvest due to the coronavirus pandemic travel restrictions. The labour shortage led to a strawberry price hike. And the sudden steep strawberry prices led to some chaos along the southern roads. In Ystad, apparently a strawberry seller decided to set up shop alongside the road which lead to some 50 cars decided to park alongside Riksväg 9 for a chance at purchasing strawberries for Midsummer at we might assume somewhat better prices. The police were notified, which gave some exciting news headlines, but since no crime had been committed the police concluded that Swedes should perhaps not leave the strawberry shopping until the last minute. So to have your own strawberries this year? Pure bliss (literally).

Coming back to the first thread of – How was your Midsummer celebrations? Rumor has it that in Sweden, the Midsummer’s Pole most popular song små grodorna was rewritten to come out as having everyone bouncing to the lyrics, “Coronorna, coronorna are impossible to see, ej öron, ej öron, ej svansar hava de, Oh, ack ack ack, oh ack ack ack, oh ack ack ack ack ack ah”.

Looking forward to more pickings through the strawberry season.

Coming back to the coronavirus situation, I have just received this picture sent to me from Sweden. Even prior to coronavirus, Swedes are reknowned introverts. The coronavirus pandemic simply brought out in full bloom, their inner introverts to the point of glee. Social distancing is taken very seriously, see, the bicycle parking. While the idea of social distancing was tacitly agreed upon prior to the pandemic, this behaviour has really taken hold and is now widely (explicitly) practiced.