(I wonder if I'll get more hits with that in the headline?)
So. Midsummer's Eve. Big, big thing in Sweden, basically the epitome of Swedish-ness. I never cared before, really, but having kids changes one's attitude towards things such as traditions.
We got up pretty early and started baking cakes. Because, as always, food is at the centre of this holiday, and we were ordered to bring something for "fika" (which, for those English-speaking readers of this blog who haven't encountered the word before, means coffee [or tea, juice or something else, but coffee is the common thing] and cake) and dessert. We made one chocolate and one cardamom cake.
Then, when all was done, we got in the car and went to the countryside. This is the second important thing about Midsummer - it should be celebrated outdoors as much as possible, preferably close to a tiny cottage in the countryside (lakes and woods or sea and cliffs are a bonus). Our friends own such a cottage, close to a lake, and thus we went there.
When we got there, and the flag was hoisted, the eating started. Herring in a thousand different marinades, salmon (smoked and raw spiced), new potatoes boiled with dill, meatballs (yes, they are just as common and important as the Muppet Show hinted), eggs with roe, strawberry cake and of course beer and schnapps. And there comes the third important Midsummer tradition - alcohol, preferably really strong alcohol. Yes, people really feel bad the day after, and yes, lots of children are born in March the year after. After all, this is an old heathen fertility festival, even if we in the Church of Sweden try to celebrate it as a feast of creation.
Now, after the food has been eaten, it's time to go pick flowers. One of the traditions around Midsummer's Eve is picking seven flowers and sleep with them under the pillow, which will make the girl sleeping (yes, only girls, or to be honest, only maidens) dream of her husband to be. But this wasn't about this, we picked flowers for the Midsummer pole. It's been quite hot in Sweden lately, so we found very few flowers, but enough for the pole itself (no rings, as is traditional). Then we tied them to the pole together with lots of leaves, and raised the pole. And then, of course, we danced around it. The dances are silly, and we wondered which sick and twisted mind wrote some of the songs, but it's tradition, so... (and this could be one of the reasons people feel a need to drink?).
After this, more food. Potato salad, and sausages (not as traditional), and strawberries with cream (very, very traditional).
And then, after an hour or so, we went home. Tired, and pleased with our ridiculously traditional Eve, and happy about being able to ignore traditions for another six months.