You’ve been in Sweden with your family for a while now.
You’ve read the books on Swedish culture, and you think you’re getting to grips with how things work here….
Don’t draw too much attention to oneself.
Avoid chit chat with people you don’t know.
Don’t go over the top with anything. Lagom is king.
Then just when you thought you knew Sweden: hoppsan, along comes midsummer.
And everything you thought you understood about Swedish life, typical and stereotypical, is turned on its head in a glorious weekend of merrymaking that heralds the arrival of arguably the most special and precious event in the Swedish year: the summer holiday sommarsemester.
Schoolchildren have had their end of term celebrations sommaravslutning and are on summer break sommarlov, and if their parents föräldrar haven’t already joined them, they are counting down the days, and a traditional midsummer midsommar celebration gives a taste of the rules for the six weeks’ holiday ahead:
Spend time outdoors, among the flowers, in the forests, at the lake.
Eat good food, and lots of it. Pick blueberries for juice saft, strawberries for cake tårta and mushrooms svamp from your secret spot.
Make the most of being with family and friends, relaxing and leaving the world of work behind.
Okay, so I’ve drawn somewhat on generalisations thus far, and for parents of small children småbarnsföräldrar, the reality of summer with kids may be somewhat less idyllic at times, as you battle with suncream solkräm, sunhats solhattar and the logistical minefield that is travel with kids resa med barn.
But nonetheless, midsummer 2019 is upon us, so get ready to celebrate like a Swede…
Flower crowns on: borrow one, buy one, or better yet learn from a Swedish expert how to make your own blomsterkrans.
Forget lagom, go all out with party food festmat. Whether you’re celebrating at home, at a public event, or with friends and neighbours, treat yourselves to your favourite food.
Get ready to dance around the maypole midsommarstång. This is something really special, and there’s only one way to truly embrace this age old tradition: just go for it.
Grab the hand nearest to yours when the music starts
And go with the flow. Listen to the bandleader who will announce the dances and show the crowd what to do. Follow others’ lead and don’t worry if you get it wrong. Embrace the silliness. These are songs about riding a carousel, about pegging up your washing, about the priest’s crow crashing its car in a ditch, and about frogs with no ears. So, yep, lagom is out the window, get stuck in and enjoy a day where the Swedes’ other true side really shines through. The side that loves nature, togetherness and the enduring certainty of the seasons.
Where can I celebrate midsummer with my family?
Search online for midsummer celebrations midsommarfirande in your local area – municipalities kommuner or residents’ associations hyresgästförening or bostadsrättsförening may hold events.
If you’re Stockholm based, check out Littlebearabroad for event listings. If you don’t already know about Littlebearabroad, make sure you take a look, it’s an absolute treasure trove of amazing information for international parents in Sweden!
And why not take the plunge and ask a neighbour granne about midsummer in your area? It’s the perfect icebreaker if you want to get to know new people this time of year!
Var kan man fira midsommar här? Where can we celebrate midsummer here?
Vad brukar man göra till midsommar här? What do people usually do for midsummer here?
Har du någon bra tips för ett midsommarfirande i närheten? Do you have any good tips for a midsummer celebration nearby?
Kan du lära mig texten till Små grodorna? Can you teach me the lyrics to Små grodorna?
Don’t forget to check out ’Swedish for Parents – Language for life with a young family in Sweden’ for more midsummer tips and a whole host more!
Glad midsommar allihopa!