Lindsay Anne Williams shares her takeaways from her first time at Midsummer.
MIDSUMMER IS THE BIGGEST CELEBRATION of the year in Sweden. Dating back hundreds of years, it’s a tradition that memorializes the summer solstice — the longest day of the year — and is meant to ensure a good harvest.
It’s also a special time when the booze overfloweth, everyone eats stinky bits of raw fish, children decorate and dance around a large phallic pole, dirty folk songs are sung, and everyone is expected to hop around like a frog.
Here are 10 things you need to know.
[Note: Matador editors selected this Community blog post for publication at the Network.]
Brush up on your schnapps skills.
Spiced schnapps is the beverage of choice, other than beer. Before sipping, you must sing a folk song and then cheers, or "skol," looking each person around the table in the eyes, starting from the left and ending on the person beside you on your right...who you then must look at again after your sip.
Dress the part.
There will be Swedish hipsters everywhere. If you aspire to anything otherwise, you'll stick out like a sore thumb, and people will stare at you as if you were from a mysterious land.
Wash it down with beer.
Since prehistory, beer has been a staple beverage in Sweden, drunk in extreme quantities to balance out the salty food -- pickled herring.
Almost everything I saw in Sweden had "once burned down." Swedes don't seem too fazed by it, as candlestick candelabras and open fireplaces are still in heavy use today.
Pickled herring is good for you.
Pickled herring has a strong odor, distinct flavour, and is considered an acquired taste even among Swedes. Like many things that taste bad, these slimy bits are good for you. Studies have shown that herring aids cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, and cognitive function.
It's okay to be silly.
Just something put together for some Midsummer hooliganry.
Nobody knows what the maypole means.
A little boy's plaything or a giant's cocktail sword? The symbolism of the Swedish maypole has been debated by folklorists and historians for centuries. No consensus has been reached.
Choose the right flowers.
According to legend, young girls who place 7 different kinds of flowers beneath their pillow on Midsummer's eve will dream of their future husband. Should you wind up single, into other women, or married to someone who looks nothing like your dream man, you simply picked the wrong flowers.
The Swedish suburbs are where it's at.
During Midsummer, the cities turn into ghost towns, as everybody ventures into the countryside for the celebrations.
Be prepared for strawberry overload.
Strawberries and cream, in its many variations, are to be expected after every lunch and dinner.
Lindsay Anne Williams set out to go backpacking around the world in 2010, and she’s still at it. She has taught English in China, been an extra on a Bollywood movie set, tattooed through a translator, stood amongst street protests in Greece and turned away at the Syrian border. Her work has been published by Western Living and Vancouver magazine. Lindsay is a MatadorU student and is currently based in India.