Column: Midsommar

Sweden has many cultural contributions to America including Swedish meatballs and the Swedish pop music group ABBA in the 1970’s. I know, ancient history. However, some respect is due. Today the four members of ABBA have a combined net worth of $900 million. They originated in Stockholm and produced hits around the world. At one time people claimed that ABBA paid more income taxes to Sweden than the Volvo car company.

MIDSOMMARS is a holiday Swedes have exported to America, anywhere Scandinavians have grouped together. It is the longest day of the year (summer solstice) and to me the beginning of barbecues, hotdogs and potato salads.

In Scandinavian countries, it is a major holiday. When the Swedes talk about the longest day, they really mean it. Being that far north, their “MIDSOMMARS” day is like 22 hours of sunlight! They pick the weekend closest to Summer Solstice and it becomes a three-day government holiday. This year it starts on June 24. They celebrate with hotdogs also, but their sides usually include pickled herring or cucumbers in sour cream. Almost every village has an outdoors festival, but one of the largest is held each year in Stockholm. Stockholm is actually a city spread out over many islands, an archipelago. Djargardsslantten is the island with the royal palace, and several wonderful museums. Technically, the King still owns the whole island and has to approve all buildings. The VASA Museum is home of the enormous 1628 warship which sank within hours of launching. The King had spent a large portion of the treasury on the ship and was said to be none too happy about it.

We attended a large Midsommars festival which is held in the open air Skansen museum which has preserved many historical Swedish folk buildings, houses and shops. To reach the Skansen Museum, we walked by several other impressive buildings including, to our total surprise, the ABBA museum! I am guessing the King was a big music fan. All the Midsommars celebrations in America and Sweden are an explosion of blue and yellow, Swedish flag colors. Everyone who owns a traditional folk costume wears it. Young girls weave daisies and other fresh flowers to make crowns to wear all day. Fiddlers play folk music on violins, ornate Hardanger Fiddles, and accordions. People dance around a type of maypole called a midsommar’s pole decorated with fresh leaves and flowers. One of the traditional dances is called Sma grodorna, or little frog. Everyone mimics a frog hopping to the music. Lots of laughter and photos. Vendors sell flags, toys and Alg burgers (pronounced something like elk). Swedes don’t really have North American elk. They do have an abundance of moose evidenced by the many yellow road signs with a moose outline. SWEDEN JUST WOULDN’T BE SWEDEN WITHOUT FARMHOUSES PAINTED RED OR ABBA.

By ED PECK – Special to the Herald Times

Special to the Herald Times

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