midsummer – then and now

We decided to stay in town this Midsummer, perhaps the most Swedish of days, what with rain to the north at the new summer house and no invitations to speak of this year.

So on the most Swedish of days, when we celebrate the sun and dance around the Midsummer pole and are supposed to eat lots of potatoes and herring and drink schnapps by the midnight sun, this was our day.

Hotel breakfast at the mall. Long aimless walk through our neighborhood. Lunch at Max, Sweden’s answer to In-N-Out Burger. Strawberries and oat ice cream with soy whipped cream (NK is allergic to milk and egg). Bedtime as the cool rain begins to fall.

But we’ve done Midsummer right. On my first Midsummer in Sweden, five years ago, I had about the most traditional holiday possible.

And, luckily, I already wrote about it for the Boston Globe in 2005.

Here are the first couple paragraphs.

HUDIKSVALL, Sweden — Summer in Sweden should be a kaleidoscope of colors in a bewitching northern light. Last summer, however, was a succession of damp, gray days, save for the green grass in the fields and meadows.
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So on June 25, with intermittent fog obscuring the countryside, a group composed mostly of Swedes drove up the Baltic coast, the car full of home-baked breads and potato dishes with names like Jansson’s Temptation. They waited on a lonely dock outside this town, about 160 miles north of Stockholm. It was almost 10 p.m., though the overcast sky remained light, when two small boats glided out of the sea mist.

Lars-Ake Asell, 58, a financial controller from Gävle, a city about halfway between Stockholm and Hudiksvall, greeted the group from one of the boats and helped load their backpacks for the journey to the island of Olmen.

After easing through almost 2 miles of calm seas, the boats entered a cove ringed by a cluster of small red cottages with white trim. The Swedes marveled at the authenticity of the cottages, a return to the 1950s, with musty wool blankets, sturdy wooden furniture, no electricty, and a portrait of the king in the outhouse.

This is a perfect place for Midsummer’s Eve, they said.

Now if only the sun would shine. The next morning, for the first time seemingly in weeks, it did.

From beyond the Arctic Circle to the southern tip of their long country, Swedes flee their cities on Midsummer’s Eve to celebrate the longest days of the year, the return of the sun after its winter death. They gather around maypoles to dance and sing, to feast with family and friends, and to pick wildflowers and dream of love.

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One thought on “midsummer – then and now

  1. Pingback: A Swedish American in Sweden: A Different Life « Stories from Aroostook County, Maine and Beyond

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