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Midsommar Mix Up

July 15, 2008 | 1 Comment

Post to the Host:
On a recent show you talked about Midsummer Day but you got two holidays (Sista April and Midsommar) mixed up.

We do light bonfires—yes—but that is on April 30. We also then have fireworks and sing welcoming the spring after a long, dark winter. I grew up in Sundsvall, Sweden, a town 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle. In the wintertime we had to cover up our rose bushes and other plants with pine tree branches to protect them from the cold and snow. When spring arrived we disposed of these branches and other junk with a bonfire. My mother one year set fire to an old bug-infested couch. The flying/popping springs were better than fireworks! Midsummer is celebrated on the longest day of the year, approx. June 20. We dress the May pole (midsommar stangen) with wild flowers and after raising the pole we dance around it and sing traditional Swedish songs. I have lived in the US since 1971 and miss these two holidays tremendously. Last year I visited my daughter in San Francisco and we attended a Swedish midsummer fest more Swedish than a midsummer in Sweden. It was in Sveadal close to Morgan Hill - a small Swedish community that has celebrated midsummer for 114 years!!!!

Charlotte H.

Midsummer is not part of my tradition, Charlotte, as you probably could tell from what I said—I grew up American fundamentalist and we never danced around a Maypole though we did make bonfires on occasion but usually to incinerate things, not for celebration. We believed we would be joyful in heaven and so we were cautious about earthly amusements, thinking them inferior. The Midsummer I witnessed was in Denmark, not Sweden, and it was celebrated as St. Hans Day (Sankt Hans). On the radio I was recalling a party at Ole and Hanne's farm near Svendborg on the island of Fyn, at which we ate a late dinner at long tables in the garden (Greenland shrimp, lamb, small potatoes, salad, and aebleskiver) and then trooped down to a hill overlooking the sea and young men lit an enormous pile of brush and debris. In the center of the pile, mounted on a pole, was an effigy of a witch. Everyone cheered when she caught fire. We stood around the bonfire and sang songs to St. John and to anything and anybody else and as the fire burned down, men took turns running and jumping over it. Across the water, on the coast of an island opposite, you could see bonfires burning. I think I may have, in my story, referred to that as the coast of Sweden, but of course it wasn't. And good for you that you caught this inaccuracy. It proves that some people actually listen closely to the radio and that we should take pains to say what we mean. I never had heard of a little Swedish community in the Bay Area, but three cheers for Sveadal. Hip hip HURRA hip hip HURRA hip hip HURRA.

1 Comment

In Finland the midsummer bonfire IS the major event of the day; or should I say of the eve of midsummer. So you are completely correct in that respect. The customs vary in the different Nordic countries. The midsummer pole is important in the Swedish speaking regions of Finland. And sometimes there are bonfires AND midsummer poles just for good measure.
(We love your shows!!)

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