Midsummer Eve


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Swedes love nature and in the summertime when days are warm and welcoming and the nights are short, the most beloved tradition is to celebrate the earth’s generosity at the summer solstice.



In older times, people believed that during the short night of the summer solstice, plants, flowers and water got magical powers. Healing plants were gathered and trolls were said to be very active.
Unmarried women could collect seven different flowers, put them under their pillow and only during the magic one midsummer night, they would dream about her future husband.

The celebration of Midsummer is an ancient tradition in Sweden.. No one really knows the origins of the mythical celebration of nature’s fertility.

Since ancient times, people have been able to decide the exact time for the summer solstice, famous sites as Stonehenge in England and Ale Stenar in Sweden.

One of the oldest descriptions of the Swedish Midsummer fest is written by the last Swedish Catholic archbishop, Olaus Magnus (1490-1557), he writes:
“When at this time, all forests, meadows and fields are green and flowering, at the time when the sun passes though the sign of Cancer, it is the holy John the Baptist Eve, all the people, men and women of all ages, gather in the city squares or out on the fields to happily dance in the light of bonfires that are lit everywhere.”

Olaus Magnus also mentions people walking the flowering meadows, praying and making crucifixes made of leaves to protect the harvest from lightning strikes and storms. This is an old heathen ritual that lived in Sweden until the Reformation that took place in 1772.

 The procedure of leaving or in Swedish, “maya’, is still practiced at Midsummer Eve, big so called maypoles are decorated with green leaves and beautiful flowers. The famous Swedish scientist, Carl von Linne described several Midsummer Eve traditions during his travels through Sweden in the 18th century he mentions people, young and old, rich and poor, dancing together all night long around maypoles, a tradition stemming from the Stone Age.

Llewellyn Lloyd, an Englishman who moved to Sweden towards the end of the 19th century writes the following about Midsummer Eve in his publication about Swedish traditions: “Midsummer Eve is the happiest festivity of the year in Sweden. In some parts of the country, most specifically Skane and Bohuslan and the counties that border to Norway, where the god Balder used to be worshipped, Midsummer is celebrated with a lot of shooting of guns, big bonfires are also lit, in older days called Balder’s Fire, to symbolise this gods burning (his body was burnt on a huge bonfire). The bonfires are lit at dawn, when they throw light over the surrounding country.
It is most remarkable that Swedes maintain the folklore practice of dancing around these bonfires or run through or over them”.

The practice of dancing around the fire probably has a pagan origin, its ancient history is little known, considering the fact that Newgrange, a burial monument that is lit only once a year, when the winter solstice occurs, was constructed in Ireland ca 3 000 BC, the knowledge and worship of the summer solstice has been known to humanity for a long time.

The habit of decorating a maypole in leaves and flowers might have been introduced to Sweden from Germany.

The following folklore practices are still involved in the Midsummer Eve festivities.

Decorating and erecting the maypole.

Dancing and singing around the maypole.

Eating and drinking in excess.

The belief in the magic of healing plants and flowers as well as water from certain wells.

High activity of trolls and other creatures in nature.

 
Midsummer celebration today

The modern Swede is still very fond of the Midsummer traditions. Most of us want to celebrate midsummer in the countryside, near nature. In the morning leaves and flowers are collected. The maypole is dressed in green, lush leaves and beautiful flowers. The unmarried girls also gather the seven different flowers and put under their pillow, hoping to dream about their future husband.

Once the Maypole is erected the dancing and singing around the Maypole begins to be followed by a large typical Swedish smorgasbord of pickled herring, salmon in all forms, new potatoes boiled with dill, meatballs and other delicacies. The singing continues around the table as Swedes like to sing a song before they drink their “nubbe”.

The singing and eating and drinking continues as the night goes on, and maybe, from the deep forests the trolls and other mythological creatures watch the Swedes celebrate the endless joy of summer.



Midsummer in Florida
It is more than possible to celebrate Midsummer in Florida. Flowers and green leaves are in abundance at midsummer. Walking through a meadow in Central Florida you will find seven or more flowers to put under your pillow and a lot of beautiful flowers to decorate the maypole. A maypole does not have to be tall, it can be customized to fit in a small garden.
Once the maypole is up, it is time to sing and dance.

The food is easy to find in Florida now since IKEA has established in several areas, there you can find the most important ingredients for a Swedish midsummer dinner, pickled herring, meatballs and lingonsylt. New potatoes and dill you can find in most grocery stores as well as fresh salmon that can be owen baked or cured.

Some of the Swedish clubs in Florida arranges Midsummer festivities, do join them to learn from Swedes how to make Midsummer magic!

Comments

1 - ARE THERE ANY MID SUMMER FESTIVALS IN THE MIAMI AREA THIS JUNE 2011?

THANKS

2 - @Birgitta SWEA has a Midsummer event in south Florida (Snyder Park)on june 25, read more here { Link }

3 - A little late for this year...but do you know of any Midsummer's events in Palm Beach County?

4 - @Pat Snyder Park is near Fort Lauderdale, not far away from Palm Beach, I suggest you contact SWEA for more details, it is not to late as they plan their celebration for June 25.

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