In Sweden, the start of summer is well celebrated every year. People leave the city and head to the countryside to celebrate Midsummer in the traditional way. Midsummer actually consists of two days. On Midsummer Eve, which is the Friday closest to June 21, the summer solstice is traditionally celebrated with numerous festivities. A decorated maypole is erected in almost every village, after which there is singing and dancing. The day afterwards is Midsummer Day, an official holiday in Sweden. I wanted to experience the midsummer magic and went to Lake Siljan in Dalarna, a region where folklore and tradition are central.
Although the festivities only start on Friday afternoon, the preparations start days in advance. The maypole has to be decorated with birch leaves and flowers, and of course, there must be made floral wreaths for the women. And if you want, you can even help with it! At some places, there are workshops that offer you the opportunity to help with the preparations. At Lake Siljan, for example, this is possible in Rättviks Gammelgård, a historical farm.
And then it’s finally there… it’s Midsummer Eve! Even I felt completely excited and even a little nervous! Celebrating midsummer in Sweden has been on my bucketlist for a long time. Midsummer celebrations are being held in numerous places near Lake Siljan. You have plenty of choice. The midsummer celebration in Leksand is one of the largest in the country and attracts thousands of visitors every year. The largest mayole of Sweden is established there. I prefer to keep it small-scale and therefore, I decided to attend the midsummer celebration in the small village of Nusnäs, known for its wooden Dala horses.
At 3 pm, the local residents gathered at the “old school”. They started to play the violin and the decorative garlands of birch leaves and flowers were lifted. The decorations were carried through the village, towards the central village square. It made me quiet. What a beautiful tradition!
Arrived at the village square, the garlands were attached to the maypole. Then, the maypole was carefully pulled up, step by step. The maypole is a cross-shaped tree with decorations, although the appearance of it will vary from village to village. If you look closely at the photos below, you will see that there are Dalahorses on the maypole in Nusnäs, something you will not see in other regions. When the maypole was raised, the party began! Everyone started dancing around the maypole on the cheerful tunes of “Små grodorna”, a song about little frogs. Fantastic!
And do you know what’s so fun? That this festive night never seems to ends, on the longest day of the year. It doesn’t get completely dark.
Most activities take place on Midsummer Eve, but of course that doesn’t mean there is nothing more to do on Midsummer Day. We drove to the church of Rättvik, which is located on the shores of Lake Siljan. Three old church boats arrive there in the morning, just before the service starts. Church boats?? Well … In the past, not all villages around Lake Siljan had a church. The inhabitants of those villages went with a so-called “church boat” to the nearest church. The construction of these boats goes back to the Viking age. Although the use of the church boats disappeared in the 20th century, the tradition is still honored at special moments.