For us Swedes midsummer’s eve is really the true National Day where we celebrate the Swedish summer and the light. For most, the reasons for celebration are not very clear but the tradition is very strong. Some traditions are very nice and for the whole family and especially the children. Thus, allowing grownups to behave like children for a while. The Swedes are very good at reusing things and so also in celebrating holidays. There is dancing around a pole, draped I birch leaves and the Swedish colors, singing silly song while doing silly dances in a big ring. We use the same songs during Christmas, six months away, but then around a fir-tree but still with the Swedish colors. We eat the same thing for dinner, pickled herring, eggs, salmon in several varieties even if there are a couple of things unique to the midsummer table. Fresh potatoes with a special kind of pickled herring, Matjessill and for dessert strawberries with whipped cream and to this we drink snaps. To drink the snaps, we need to sing more silly songs standing up with raised glasses. As the evening goes and more songs have been sung the standing part gets more and more difficult.
The Swedish midsummer dinner must take place outside even if the winds draws down cold from the north and the rain is poring down. This results in a lot of running with the whole dinner table in and out between the rain showers. You never run out of things to talk about as the weather usually does it best to remind us that we live very close to the North Pole. Many midsummers eve have had the same temperature and weather as Christmas Eve, five degrees centigrade and the rain coming horizontal with a strong north west wind. But what we always remember is the midsummer when the sun was shining, and the weather was warm all the way into the night. Since it is summer you need to dress accordingly and for the men it means a short sleeve shirt and shorts and for the girls it is a thin dress in white with flower pattern. One also makes a Midsummer Wreath from leaves and flowers you pick during the day; these are worn by children and younger girls.
A good thing with these traditions is that they bring family and friends together and allow people to let go from life musts. Even the strictest accountant can fool around for a while jumping around in what you can call a dance singing a silly song about how funny the little frogs are. I think the little frogs are laughing their legs of when looking at the accountant! When many meet up like this, new relations are formed, new children are made in the bushes and new friendships will be made. I could not call my self Swedish if I do not bring up the down sides also. The excessive use of alcohol also creates a lot of problems with fighting and broken marriages. Many children fear these holiday as they know that their parents will get drunk and fight. The heavy traffic from everybody leaving the cities to get to the countryside causes many accidents and damages to the nature we worship.
Lately there has been a lot of demonstrations and talk about Black Lives Matter and looking at our traditions from a diversity and inclusion standpoint there are some things to consider. Are our traditions, being nationalistic, religious, or even tribal a way to include or exclude? Is this a basic human need for belonging to something larger than yourself? If we need to exclude to be able to be included, then this is really man kinds curse! Can we feel safe in an ever-expanding group? To include someone in your life will inevitable mean that you yourself change. To allow this to happen you need to feel confident in who you are and your sense of belonging.
I think traditions like the Midsummer celebration creates a good sense of belonging and if we are aware it can be a way of inclusion. Everybody is welcome to join in the ring, if it gets too big, we create another, and another, and another. The dance styles will change and even the songs. After all there is a lot Pizza eaten during midsummer today.
Have a wonderful Midsummer wherever you are and make sure to include someone standing outside the ring. Who knows one day the ring goes around the entire world.