Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Midsummer in Sweden

Friday June 22, 2018

Yesterday I went to a celebration of the longest day of the year with a collection of friends at a local homestead in Horred. A lot about it was familiar and there was a lot about it that could only happen here.

One: we need a long night of sun or near sun. Typically the sun sets in Chicago on June 21 around 9 -9:30. Here it was almost midnight.

Two: Skol.

When we arrived at about 1:30 other couples and families were slowly arriving, pulling in on bikes, cars, or walking. Two outdoor event tents were set up. Where was the pole? We have to make it. A frame was on the ground and soon people were bringing foliage and greenery to twine around it. Everyone helped. My friend Ulrika had brought buckets of flowers, so she spiced up the pole with color. She also made me a garland for my head.

The pole (sometimes called tree) looks like a cross and when decorated has two smaller wreaths hanging from the ends. This my friend tried to explain to me represents gonads.

The tradition, it seems, goes way back to pagan times and rites for fertility. Now modern Swedes seem to do it as a kind of self-referencing satire. Not to say they don't take things seriously, but I understood this was about fun and getting together. Therefore, before the dance we sang silly songs and played silly games.

The dance itself was silly. There was discussion about whether the teens would join in, as many were age appropriately self-conscious. But they did. We joined hands and walked and sang. One song I recognized, maybe called the work song, where on Mondays this is how we wash the clothes, Fridays scrub the floor, etc. Then came the song about the frog with no ears or tail (tadpoles?) And we had to mimic the frog by hopping and making a sign of tails on our bottoms and croaking. I joined in. Why not? We were all laughing.

And getting drunker. After every silly song there was a chorus of SKOL! Then they tipped back a small glass. I saw now why so many walked or rode bikes. Some planned to spend the night. My friend Ulrika and I don't drink, so we chin-chinned our thermos cups of tea or sparkling drink.

While the whole time the children played. Running through the woods, jumping on piles of rocks, or throwing strawberries at one another. At one point the wreath Ulrika made for her little girl Irma ended up around the dog's neck.

We ate a big meal at 6 pm where the party planners prepared "new potatoes" and the separate families brought out their own picnics of pickled fish, meatballs, and a kind of mayo-based shrimp salad. We ate these foods with the potatoes. And skolled after every song. Closer to midnight there was a second meal where we grilled hotdogs and sausages.

We left for home after midnight after many goodbyes, hugs, handshakes, and Swede-lish, people drunkenly trying to talk to me in English. We all laughed together. Bless them.

We drove home passing many others cars now leaving their celebration. The sky seemed to reflect a moon-lit lake, silvery and clotted with clouds. The long sun had just slipped below the horizon, lending a duskness to the drive home. Still not completely dark. We arrived home about 1-1:30, children asleep, and everyone tired. With plans to sleep in.

My Midsummer Night's Dream.

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