How Swedes celebrate midsummer - Moz Sweden

Stories from the north

Midsummer’s eve

Midsummer is a Swedish summer tradition that’s been celebrated for hundreds of years. This is the time of year when the sun never really sets, and the magic of never-ending summer nights are welcomed with a flower decorated maypole, dancing, singing, typical summer food, friends and family.

The maypole

The old name for the Swedish maypole is ”majstång”, but does not refer to the month of May (”maj” in Swedish). The Swedish word ”maj” is actually an old word that means ”to leaf something” – or, in more modern terms: to decorate something.

Quite suitable, since the maypole today is richly decorated with leaves and topped off with two large flower wreaths, formed as a big cross-like statue of wooden poles. Songs and dances are held around it, and it doesn’t matter how many – or few – people there are to celebrate: the dancing will take place, no matter what! So what do we sing about? Well – jumping frogs, laundry day, and the famous fox sneaking around an iced lake… of course with matching dances.

People dancing around a may pole
I goda vänners lag, Among good friends, Swedish sayings I goda vänners lag, Among good friends, Swedish sayings

The magic of the Midsummer night

The night of Midsummer’s eve is magical. Today, the magic lies in the fact that the sun never sets, enjoy the company of family and friends, maybe take a midnight swim and feel the silence of nature in the evening.

However, hundreds of years ago, this magical night was something else: it was a way for farmers to wish for rich crops and a good harvest. Young girls would pick flowers in silence, in the hopes of dreaming of their future husbands – and if you were to roll around in the dewy meadow, you could significantly strengthen your health.

Some traditions still live to this day – such as picking flowers at night and dreaming of your future love. Although you believe in it or not, the traditions might live on just because it’s a wonderful way to enjoy the bright night.

Woman and girls picking flowers in a meadow

The holiday of friends and nubbe

If Christmas is a family holiday, Midsummer’s eve is more of a holiday for friends. We gather to eat sill – herring in different pickled variations – summer potatoes, sour cream with green onions and of course to drink nubbe. Nubbe – or ”snaps” – is a Swedish hard liquor, originally made from potatoes or grain, and is always served ice cold. Today there are many different variations in taste and seasoning: from a fresh hint of lemon and elderflower, to the bitter taste of wormwood. And since singing is a big part of the Midsummer celebration, you can’t drink a nubbe without a small song – or maybe an anecdote. After the song, you raise the small glass (snapsglas) and cheer ”SKÅL”. After that, the night never seems to end.

Midsummer celebration, eating and drinking