Oh love love love Midsummer! Can not believe Richard have never experienced a proper Midsummer in Sweden, sadly this time of year we are always in the UK for some reason. One day, I promise you Richard you will experience a proper Midsummer in Sweden. And yes it is true Midsummer is a big holiday for us, just as big as Christmas…MASSIVE really! People leave the big cities and go to the coast or to the countryside. So a big town can become a ghost town and all shops are closed, since it is a public holiday. Avoid at any cost going to a big supermarket the day or even two days before Midsummer…mayhem no one leaves happy!
As a child I loved Midsummer, and when you are a little girl dreaming about princesses and so on, this old tradition I loved the most. You shall jump over seven “gardesgardar” (I had to google and apparently it is called a round poled fence), which these days can be tricky to find, but I grew up on the country side so not too difficult back then. After each jump you picked a flower and you made a bouquet, which you then put under your pillow that night. Oh yes you were not allowed to say one word, of course my older sister always did her best to make me talk, I was well annoyed! So this tradition, what is it for…well you are supposed to dream about your future love. Since I always talked (bloody sister) I never dreamt about my future love (met him anyway). But it was a romantic idea which I happily picked up, I still do love a good romantic story, who doesn’t!?!
So Midsummer, the longest day of the year. It is a celebration to the light and also when we Swedes start our holiday season. In Sweden, most companies or indeed the public sector takes summer holidays in a block. It is normally divided in two periods, early or late and it is normally four or five weeks (sometimes six) in a row. July is the industrial holiday where most industrial businesses close for the Summer. Sadly you can not choose if you like the early or the late period off work (well maybe, a while ago since I worked in Sweden), mostly it vary each year so some years for example my mum and her husband have holidays at the same time, some years not together at all or just a week or so. Of course you can take holidays when ever you like but not that many in a row. This summer holiday season kicks of with Midsummer and it is sacred. The Summer holiday is holy and you can create quite a long list of things to do during your holiday. It is so holy that it is all you are looking forward to during the whole year. Last year, one of my brothers company needed extra ordinary staff in over the summer and they asked staff not to take holiday for a massive pay out and that they could take their long holiday later over the year. My brother worked during the Summer (crap weather anyway), got double paid and took six weeks off (paid holiday of course) in January/February and went to Thailand. Why not, a cold dark winter, better spend it somewhere else warm in the world.
During the Summer holidays the teens work like crazy, it is a great opportunity to for teens to get in to the working life. Most companies hire summer staff to cover the holiday period. Four to six weeks over the summer out of a ten week summer holiday. It was great for me when I went to High and Secondary School, at 17 I worked a summer in a cafe and then started to work at the main post office in town to sort out post in the evenings which I stayed on during the rest of the year, did one evening a week, had great friends there, all my age. I made some cash and still had a summer break and continued working over the year and for a few years, spent the summers delivering post to the countryside, great freedom. Early shifts and still had most of the day to spend time with friends.
Oh I have gone off the topic of Midsummer… Well it is all about celebrating the start of the summer with good friends and family. We raise our maypole and dress our hair with a circle arrangement of flowers “Midsommarkrans” and dance around the maypole singing silly songs, oh I beg your pardon loved songs! Some dress up in traditional folklore dresses, which I think is really nice and think I might need to invest in one, or maybe just for the girls.
For me it is all about the food. Oh I LOVE food! I LOVE Swedish food. Every time I am home, it is like I inhale the food…have to eat as much as quickly as I can. The traditional Midsummer table has the new potato, boiled with fresh dill, herring and lots of it and pickled in different flavours, (just visit the big blue shop and you will see many types) sour cream, chives and of course a BBQ. Then to finish it off with coffee and Strawberry cream cake. And lets not forget the schnapps.
I miss these kind of traditions, they are loved and they are fun! Have a great Midsummer, if you have friends in Sweden, I recommend you to take the opportunity to use them to experience your own Midsummer. I will leave you with a picture of the Swedish royal family, because it makes me happy!