The end of winter has put the spring back in our step and the smile on our faces. You can feel that people are cheerier and everything is starting to buzz. Summer fun is right around the corner. Marina Georgescu takes us through Skellefteå’s two biggest, most celebratory, summer events.
These summer months bring some important celebrations in Sweden. The major and most celebrated one is Midsummer (June 23-24). However, a few weeks earlier, we have National Day on June 6.
A little history
This event honors several historical occasions that occurred on June 6. The first one was in 1523 when Gustav Vasa was elected king, and the second one was the adoption of a new constitution in 1809. Later on in 1916, June 6 became the Swedish Flag day, celebrating the fact that Sweden had its own flag after the dissolution of the union with Norway (1905). Finally, in 1983 it became National Day.
Depending on the weather, it is mainly celebrated outdoors with barbecues or picnics, featuring strawberry cake, fresh new potatoes, salmon, herring, rhubarb, bread, and cheese, or perhaps even a smörgåstårta (a layered sandwich that looks like a cake) with ham, cheese or shrimps and salmon. You will see people dressed in the national colors: yellow and blue. There are also special ceremonies around the country welcoming new Swedish citizens.
National Day is mainly celebrated in the Nordanå area, on the open wooden stage near Nordanågårdens bistro, and has been organised by the Lions Club Association for the past 30 years. Anna Frohm, one of the organizers of the event, explains that the celebration will start at 11.30 at the main square with a big parade, and that people can follow it from there to Nordanå. The main program will start at 12.00 and will last until 15.00. People are welcome to stay afterwards and keep enjoying the area and mingling with the rest of the attendees. This year they will have a lot of different cultural activities that can be easily checked out online.
The big day has finally arrived.
Midsummer Eve and Midsummer Day mark the start of summer in Sweden and are a pure excuse to party with friends and family. Get ready to step out of your comfort zone, as there will be lots of social ice-breakers during this day!
Originally a cultural import from Germany during the Middle Ages, the maypole is wrapped with green garlands and flowers, and is usually placed in a prominent space in town for people to dance around. In the past, it allowed men and women to connect. Under the guise of doing childish and ridiculous things while dancing, many would meet and flirt pretending that it was just a game. Many people wear flower crowns that are made out of wild flowers. These crowns have been for a long time, a symbol of rebirth and fertility, connecting to the essence of the holiday and easy to make (just watch a YouTube tutorial). Another popular tradition for those who are single is to pick seven different types of flowers, and put them under the pillow to dream of your future spouse. So, take a break from Tinder and get busy!
The Frog Dance
Jump in the line and immerse yourself in the most hilarious tradition of all: The Frog Dance.
’The small frogs, the small frogs, are funny to look at. No tails, they have no tails. No ears, they have no ears…’
This song “Little Frogs” was first heard in Sweden in woodwork and culture classes at Nääs castle at the end of the 1800s. Later on, it was transformed into a children’s song game and incorporated more formally into Swedish culture around the 1920s.
Warm up your knees, and be ready to squat and jump with your hands behind your back or your ears (depending what the lyrics are saying – or just follow the person in front). One fun fact is that the melody dates back to Napoleonic times and originates from a military march: The Onion Song. Later on, the British in an ironic, if not slightly bigoted way, changed the original text “In step, comrades, in step, comrades” to “In step, little frogs”.
In Skellefteå, you can enjoy these traditions at Bonnstan (the old church town). Check different social media or the tourist office’s website closer to the time.
Everyone’s favourite: food & drinks!
After all this “exercise”, it’s nice to chill and relax to a lovely buffet of classic Swedish delicacies with smoked salmon, different kinds of pickled herring, grilled meat, prawns on toast, Västerbotten cheese pie, new potatoes with dill, sour cream and chives, surströmming, and of course the unforgettable strawberry cake made with Swedish strawberries which are the pride of the country, full of flavor and sweetness.
During the meal you will have fun singing a bunch of “drinking songs” starting with the memorable “Helan Går!” (Take it all!). People normally have a selection of these songs at hand for you to join in. This is a uniquely Swedish tradition and the Museum of Spirits, in Stockholm, has collected more than 12,000 of these types of songs. If you sang one per day it would take more than 32 years to sing them all!
At some point, you might eventually play kubb, where the objective is to knock down ten small wooden blocks and a large wooden block known as “The King” by throwing wooden sticks at them.
Time for a dip Finally, be ready to party the whole night and in some cases have a “wee-hour dip” in the sea or lake if you are at a summer house celebrating.
After Midsummer most people are on vacation, and a fun fact is that probably the summer holidays are one of the few things Swedes are “allowed” to brag about.
On vacay It is okay to chat about and show off a little regarding what you did during the summer, when you return to work. You might even be able to show off your tan.
So, enjoy the summer and make the most of it: be outside as much as possible in nature while basking in the sun, and charge your batteries because you deserve it.
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