In the center there is a pole decorated with flowers. Around it adults and children dance and sing: "The little frogs, the little frogs are funny to watch. No ears, no tails they have."And to do this, people wiggle their hands where ears and tails are on other animals. Sounds crazy? A little bit it is. But it is part of every midsummer celebration.
Midsummer is one of the most important festivals in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries. We had Swedish teacher and half-Swedish Rebecca Renz explain to us what it was all about.
What happens on Midsummer?
Everyone dances around the may pole. (Photo: dpa)
On Midsummer, people celebrate the summer solstice – that is, the longest day of the year. This is on 21. June. But when it falls on a weekday, as it does this year, Swedes celebrate the weekend after. "It is even established by law that Midsummer is celebrated on a Saturday between 20. and 26. June is celebrated," says Rebecca Renz.
The cities are emptied of people, because the celebration is in the countryside. Many Swedes have a vacation home – and those who don’t have one, go to visit friends. "Midsummer is celebrated together with friends and family," says Rebecca Renz. You set up the cornstalk, pick flowers and decorate the pole. Many girls weave themselves a flower wreath, some people also wear traditional costumes. Then they dance around the may pole. Besides the frog song there are some other funny songs. Late afternoon, we have dinner: New potatoes, sour cream, chives, dill and herring. For dessert we have fresh strawberries.
What is so special?
"Supposedly, Midsummer’s Eve is magical," Rebecca Renz tells us. There are many old rituals. One goes like this: When girls pick seven different flowers on Midsummer’s Day and place them under their pillows, they dream on Midsummer’s Eve of the man they will one day marry. "But the important thing is not to talk while picking," says Rebecca Renz. However, even if many Swedes today no longer believe in such things, Midsummer is at least as important as Christmas in the country. "It’s also a very old celebration."
Why is it called cornstalk?
Everyone joins in, old and young alike. (Photo: dpa)
At Midsummer you dance around the May pole. Isn’t it strange that the bar is called that – even though the festival takes place in June? That’s because the pole is not named after the month of May, but after the Swedish word "maja". That means: decorate with flowers and leaves. And this is what the Swedes do with the pole.
Since when do you celebrate?
"Some believe that people celebrated Midsummer as far back as the Bronze Age, about 1500 years before Christ," says Rebecca Renz. There are pictures carved into rocks from that time – and with a little imagination, you can see the celebration on them. What is certain is that Midsummer has been celebrated since Viking times – that is, for more than 1000 years. You know this because old stories, the so-called sagas, tell about it.
How do you celebrate somewhere else?
In Norway and Denmark, Midsummer is usually celebrated on 23rd. June celebrated, the evening before Sankthan’s. At 24. June is reminded of the Christian saint John the Baptist. In Finland it is also called Juhannus. Presumably, in Norway, Denmark and Finland, a Christian festival has been merged with the original Viking festival in this way. Celebrations are similar to those in Sweden, but often large fires are lit and there is no corn stick.
And why so few in Germany celebrate the longest day of the year? "In the north, even today, the light has a different meaning than in Germany," Rebecca Renz believes. "Especially in northern Sweden it hardly gets light in winter and on Midsummer the sun does not go down."Of course, one has to celebrate this special day!