Since I love pretty much everything Scandinavian, I’d been wanting to experience Midsummer in Sweden for a while now, and this year I finally got to do just that.Like my experience in Munich for Oktoberfest, Midsummer happened for me because of the kindness of friends and friends of friends.
Midsummer in Sweden – or as I now like to call it, “summer camp with schnapps” – is a holiday that’s celebrated on summer solstice, the longest and lightest day of the year. Midsummer weekend falls somewhere between the 20th and 25th of June. And similar to the other big Swedish holidays, Midsummer celebrations takes place on Midsummer’s Eve, not Midsummer’s Day.
So if you’ve never been to a Swedish Midsummer celebration, go visit Sweden, but first read the timeline below to see what it’s like:
The Morning of Midsummer Eve
6:30 – Wake up, slightly delirious because you’re not a morning person. Get ready to head out to catch the bus to the ferry to the archipelago.
7:15 – Lug all of your crap, which includes a suitcase, bags of groceries, and one duffel bag full of drinks that you’ve acquired from duty free and Systembolaget.
7:20 – Hop on bus. Realize that in Stockholm’s cashless utopia, you can’t buy a bus ticket on the bus. Try not to freak. Pretend to be a confused American tourist (which you kind of are, anyway) and make a at the bus driver while explaining that you can’t miss the bus, because then you’ll miss your ferry to the archipelago for your very first Midsummer. Breathe a sigh of relief when the bus driver, sternly lets you board, but tells you to make sure to have a ticket next time.
7:30 – Arrive at Slussen. Find out that you’re headed to the archipealgo island Möja. Try to figure out which ferry is the right one to take. Discover that it’s the ferry with the longest line. Stand in the rain waiting to board. Wonder if it’s going to be cold and rainy all day. After all, it is MidSUMMER.
8:00 – Board ferry. Be very relieved to put all of your crap down because your drinks bag combined with the others bags are really heavy. Realize that everyone else on the ferry is also lugging bags of drinks, groceries, sleeping bags, and suitcases of their very own. Feel like maybe you did this whole Midsummer party thing right, as you massage your sore shoulder.
8:30 – Wake up from brief nap thinking that you’ll be arriving at your destination any minute. (Visit Stockholm advertises that “The archipelago is only 20 minutes from Stockholm city center.”) Ask friends how much longer you’ll be on the ferry. They say, “About three hours.” Be shocked that archipelago is that big. Go back to sleep because motion sickness is not your friend.
The Swedish Archipelago
11:15 – Arrive at Möja. Rush to grab all of your crap and get off the boat. Be greeted by your hosts on the dock of the ferry. Mental note that this is totally not a cliche scene from “This is Sweden.” This is actually Sweden. Meet and introduce yourself to half of the people you’ll be spending the next 24 hours with in the host’s summer house.
11:20 – Feel winded and overwhelmed by your bags as you walk down a dirt path, then a grassy path, then up some rocks to get to the summer house. Think that you look something like Cameron Diaz in “The Holiday” trying to carry all of her luggage in the countryside, except with Chucks on instead of Louboutins. Be extremely thankful when your host falls back to help you with a couple of your bags. She’s your new favorite person.
11:30 – Arrive at host’s super adorbs summer house, which is more like a mini summer estate with a main house, guest house, and – drumroll, please – outhouse. Get shown to the room you’ll be sharing with two other girls.
11:45 – Unload groceries and drinks bag. Load is officially lighter.
12:00 – Decide to explore the outhouse. While waiting for the toilet discuss with friend how to get furniture to this non-car accessible place. Say, “If this were my place, I’d build my furniture.”
12:05 – Walk back towards main house. Drop your jaw because both the girl and guy Swedes (oh hey, feminism and gender equality!) are actually building a dining table and benches from wooden 2x4s to fit all of the guests. Take a mental to make your new Instagram hashtag #boutthatvikinglife
12:30 – Explore the cliffs around the summer house. Take in the view and where you’ll potentially have to shower. And by shower, you mean jump into the ocean. Wonder how you hold soap and swim at the same time. Slowly, back away from the sea.
Lunchtime: A Midsummer Sweden Celebration
1:00pm – Sit down at the homemade table for lunch, the main event. Take in all of the other homemade delicious looking (and tasting!) traditional Midsummer food: västerbotten cheese pie (tastes like parmesean and mature white cheddar had a yummy baby and put it in a pie shell), different types of pickled herring (pesto herring = ultimate nomnoms), hard-boiled eggs topped with caviar, salad, bread, salmon, meatballs, potatoes, and of course, schnapps (Jalepeno cilantro schnapps = something you’ve always wanted, but never even realized it).
Start chowing down. Get presented with a placemat covered in Midsummer song lyrics in Swedish and English. It’s a Swedish midsummer tradition to eat and sing at the table. Catch the rhythm and hum along to each song that’s sung. When songs are over, punctuate each one with a shot of schnapps because this is also a Swedish Midsummer tradition. After first song/shot, count six songs’ lyrics on your placemat. Realize that by the end of this lunch, everyone at the table will have at least done six shots of schnapps. Wonder how strong schnapps are.
2:30pm – Head down to the town square with everyone for what you’ve been cheekily told is a little “pole dancing followed by jumping in the sack.” Arrive and see presumably most of the rest of the town’s inhabitants and visitors dancing and singing around a maypole. Although you once believe you could freestyle around the maypole, it’s more like a giant game of “Ring around the Rosie.”
Realize that you don’t have a flower crown and that it’s probably too late and too rainy to get one. Be sure to get one next time. After pole dancing, it’s time for tug of war. Your team wins. It’s awesome. And really, really like summer camp. It’s then time for jumping in the sack (a.k.a. sack racing), but it’s done by age groups, so kids first. Start laughing and think, “Of course,” when you see the little Swedish kids jumping in familiar blue Ikea “sacks” instead of burlap ones. Love Sweden, Swedish holidays, and Swedish exports that much more.
3:30pm – Head back to the summer house with everyone. It is now time for cake. See that Swedish cake is the best thing ever because it’s a simple cake made of strawberries, whip cream, angel food, and lemon curd. This is your very favorite kind of cake and the only kind of cake you ever eat because of your sugar-free diet. Be all YOLO and eat two slices. Diet? What diet?
The Midsummer Games
4:00pm – It’s time for the Midsummer games. The land around the mini summer estate has been turned into your group’s very own arena. You count off numbers to make teams of 4-5. Each team has to untangle a knot from a rope without ever letting go of it, hammer a large nail into a log, dip the end of a spoon that’s tied around your waist into a beer bottle, race around a tree carrying a potato on a spoon in your mouth, and spit herring as far as you possibly can. Think to yourself,
“This is like summer camp with schnapps. And it’s SO MUCH FUN.”
7:00pm – Finish games. Be glad your team didn’t come in last place. Watch as the grill is fired up and everyone starts throwing meat and veggies on it. Demolish your dinner.
9:00pm – Perk up your ears when music starts playing. Hop up from the dinner table to do a little song & dance on a muddy dancefloor, which also doubles as a front lawn and front porch. The dance party involves Top 40, Robyn, and Disney songs. Over the course of the next four hours, ebb and flow from dancing to chatting to dancing under the neverending light of the Midsummer sun.
1:00am – Fall immediately asleep even though it’s STILL kind of light out, and looks more like 8:30pm on a summer night in LA than 1am. Be exhausted, but super happy that it’s now officially summer and thanks to an awesome group of people you’ve just experienced what has to have been the best first Midsummer party ever.