~* Midsummer *~

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Midsummer is widely celebrated in Sweden and Midsummer's Day is a public holiday. Originally, back when the Vikings ravaged in Scandinavia (and elsewhere...), it was a fertility rite. The May pole was a phallic symbol, which was supposed to fertilize Mother nature, in hope that the harvests would be good later in the year. The festivities could probably go pretty wild sometimes... :o)

Nowadays, the holiday always begins on a Friday, Midsummer Eve, but in the beginning it marked the summer solstice - the longest day of the year and the shortest night. As with many pagan traditions, church now has part of it. Midsummer Day (St John's Day) is celebrated on the Saturday and commemorate the birth of John the Baptist.

People thought that nature during Midsummer night was filled with hidden powers. Especially the dew was considered magical and was used to heal sickness and all kinds of wounds and you could also add some to the dough when baking - it made the bread bigger and tastier. Birch leaves were also considered powerful and could be used as bandage and if you put some night leaves in your bath it eased pain. This was also the night when elves came out to dance and if you were lucky, maybe you could spot a 'troll' hiding behind a tree...

There are many traditions about Midsummer that still live here in Sweden. A wreath or a bouquet with seven or nine (the traditions vary) different flowers is powerful if you pick them all alone and speak to no one. If you dare pick one flower from the churchyard, the power increases even more... If a girl puts the flowers under her pillow, it is said that she'll dream of her future husband that night... You may also hang the wreath in the ceiling and your house will stay happy and healthy. A pair of young birches by the front door also bring happiness into the house.

The May pole is still risen in all parts of Sweden and people (mainly the children) are dancing around it and sing old songs. In many parts of the country, people like to dress up in national costumes, play folk music and dance old dances.

Flowers are an important feature at Midsummer. Many girls and women wear wreaths in their hair, and most people like to dress up in pretty and summery clothes. The May pole ('midsommarstång' or 'majstång') doesn't look the same in different parts of the country, but it's usually decorated with leaves and flowers. In some areas, it's custom to gather the day before Midsummer Eve and prepare the May pole together, and have a little party.

Family and friends get together, eat pickled herring ('sill'), the first fresh potatoes of the season, sour cream, crisp bread and drink snaps (vodka) and beer. Fresh Swedish strawberries are also an important feature (for dessert), but it's the fresh potatoes that are the symbol of Midsummer for many people. Yum...

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