Each culture has it´s own cultures and oddities, and Sweden is certainly no different, whether it is our truck-filled graduations, our fondness of weird and smelly fish, or our world-leading willingness to live alone. With all that in mind, perhaps no tradition is as strange (at least to outsiders) as Midsummer, or Midsommar as it’s called in Swedish.  Don’t believe me? Here are 5 things you need to know about it.

  1. When does it take place?

Midsummer’s Eve and Midsummer’s Day is celebrated on Friday and Saturday, somewhere between June 19-25.

2. Why is it celebrated?

Midsummer is commonly believed to be the celebration of the summer solstice and to have pagan roots, but is in fact a Christian holiday, originally to celebrate the birth of John the Baptiste. So sorry, turns out `Midsommar´, the blockbuster horror movie, got it wrong. About the drugs, the cults and the sacrifice that is, the dancing and singing they sadly got right.

Swedish Midsummer Festival 2018

Midsummer is one of Sweden’s most important holidays. Photo by: Tim Soter

Midsummer has been celebrated since at least the 14th century in Sweden. For hundreds of years, the church was very unhappy with the general population’s rowdy celebrations but was unable to make the holiday about John The Baptiste in the same way Christmas was about Jesus.

3. The maypole and the dancing

Yes, we do weird dances around the “maypole”. Yes, we sing weird songs. But no, the maypole is not a phallic symbol, despite what you might have heard. The maypole is believed to have arrived from Germany sometime during the Middle Ages, but the silly games and dances of today started to appear early 20th century. Ah, the dances. The most famous one is probably “små grodorna” (“the small frogs”), with its, uhm, festive singing and… just watch it below.

Don’t you dare tell me there is something wrong with that. Maybe that’s what happened in the `Midsummer’ movie. In that case, they deserved it.

4. The drinking and singing

The drinking and singing goes back as far as the maypole, annoying the church and the authorities. Back then I mean, I don’t think they can be bothered anymore. If they are, well, then they lost that battle, seeing how Midsummer is when Swedes consume the most alcohol during the year. And with the alcohol, and in particular with the snaps, comes the singing. Typically after the snaps, at least that’s when the songs sound alright. Kinda.

What´s that I hear? You want to see David Hasselhoff learn “snapsvisor”? Your wish is my command…

 

5. The weather

If you talk about Midsummer, the weather WILL get mentioned. And discussed in detail. Bad weather and good weather will be predicted, and good and bad weather will be remembered from past Midsummers. Honestly, it seems like it always rains. Which is, you know, not great when you´re outdoors.

Don’t underestimate how important weather chats are to Swedes, especially around this time a year. No matter how badly we want the weather to be nice, it seldom is, but at least we get to complain about it, and it’s always good to have topics for small talk.

READ ALSO: Donald Duck: A Swedish Christmas Tradition