Swedish Midsummer Traditions – How to Celebrate “Midsommar” like Swede

Midsummer traditions in Sweden
Midsummer traditions in Sweden

Would you like to celebrate midsummer like a typical Swede? On this site you will learn why Swedes celebrate midsummer and  what happens on a typical midsummer's eve in Sweden: traditional food, activities, folk dances and locations for the most Swedish celebration of the year.

Further below, find out where you can celebrate as a tourist in Sweden.

How Swedes celebrate midsummer

When is midsummer?

Midsummer takes place on a Friday between June 19 and June 25.

Why do Swedes celebrate midsummer?

Swedes, just as people in other countries, like to reproduce. And what’s great for reproduction? … Right, fertility!

Fertility is the basic motto of the midsummer fest in Sweden. Interestingly, midsummer is not in the middle of the summer but right in the beginning, in the end of June. Yeah, this doesn't sound logical, but, hey, let's just have another snaps and don’t bother arguing about it.

Also, midsummer is celebrated to welcome the Summer and the fruitful time of the year. Nowadays, it's maybe more the start of semestertiden, holiday time, which lasts until about early August.

Guide: Working in Sweden – Swedish working culture

Midsummer traditions

Maypole dancing

Something Swedes love to tell you once you tell them it’s your first midsummer in Sweden, is that the majstång/midsommarstång, may/midsummer pole, is a phallus symbol. The moment Swedes explain to you they put up a “gigantic penis”, to celebrate fertility is usually the point when the party starts to get really interesting.

Midsummer food

Typical food you find on any Swedish midsummer table – a smörgåsbord with:

  • lax (salmon)
  • färskpotatis (fresh potatoes)
  • sill (herring)
  • strömming (Baltic herring)
  • köttbullar (meatballs)
  • and for desert jordgubbar (strawberries) with glass (ice cream) or
  • jordgubbstårta (strawberry cake)

Traditional Swedish food

Typical midsummer celebration

To sum up a typical midsummer celebration in Sweden, here is how it goes:

  1. Dress: Put on a white dress or one with a flower print, if you're a woman, or a shirt, blue or white, if your a man.
  2. Be outside in the garden of a friend, or even better, sommarstuga (summer house/cottage), enjoy the sunshine, set up a white tent and a midsummer pole (that phallus thing) to dance around later.
  3. Align party benches and tables.
  4. Decorate the table with small Swedish flags and flowers.
  5. Drink snaps, sing snapsvisordrinking songs (snapsvisor.nu) Here the lyrics of “Helan går”.
  6. Play outdoor games, like kubb.
  7. Dance like little frogs around the midsummer pole, singing kuwakaka kuwakaka kuwakakakakaaa. (Swedes pretend to do it mainly to entertain their children. But they love it and do it even when there’s no child even close to the midsummer pole.)
    Song lyrics for Små grodorna in Swedish and English
  8. Make a midsommarkrans (midsummer wreath) and wear it with grace on your head.
  9. Enjoy the sunset
  10. Dance
  11. Flirt
  12. Kiss

At last, midsummer is the celebration of fertility, so celebrate it in its most appropriate way!

Midsommar is considered another great opportunity to get drunk or pregnant

By the way, an unusual high amount of Swedish babies are born on the 21 of March, nine month after midsummer.

Where to celebrate midsummer in Sweden as a tourist

If you come to Sweden as a visitor, I recommend to check out the website of the local community or ask the hotel staff where you can find the public midsummer location. If you’re going to be in Stockholm, the celebration at Skansen (the open-air museum) is probably the best place to celebrate a traditional Swedish midsummer. There, the orchestra not only plays traditional music but also wears traditional Swedish cloths. This might feel a bit more like a tourist attraction, but one gets a good feeling of how it was celebrated back in the days.

Special midsummer advice

Get prepared with your cider, beer and other alcoholic beverages, at the latest a day before midsummer. Because that’s when the queue is the longest in Systembolaget and since you’re about to become Swedish, standing with ten other Swedes in a queue holding a grey plastic basket with at black handle shouldn’t bother you at all.

Make sure not to wear too fine shoes. Not only because you spend most of the day walking on grass, but also because the person sitting opposite site of you might reach out for some under-table-action with your feed.

Seven flowers

If you're a woman, and single, collect seven different flowers to put under your pillow before you go to bed. It is said that during your dream your future husband will appear. Alternatively you might also feel the desire to meet a specialist for pollen-allergies.

You know you’ve missed midsummer when about half of your Facebook-friends have changed their profile picture to one showing them wearing a midsummer wreath.

Midsummer video

More about Swedish celebrations and traditions

1 thought on “Swedish Midsummer Traditions – How to Celebrate “Midsommar” like Swede”

  1. It’s called Midsummer, because Valborg, that nowdays is considered start of Spring, used to be considered start of Summer season in the past.

    Valborg (Walpurgi’s Night) is celebrated at the end of April; and happens between Spring Equinox and Midsummer.

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Find out what Swedish people fear and desireHow to be Swedish: A Quick Guide to Swedishness - in 55 Steps

For example, in this book you’ll learn how to:

  • Interact with Swedes, without embarrassing yourself
  • Celebrate Swedish traditions
  • Flirt like a Swede

Find out why:

… Swedes are obsessed with sunshine, nature and a socializing activity called fika
… Swedes don’t work in July
… Swedes dance like little frogs around a pole that looks like a gigantic phallus
… and many more steps how to smoothly blend in among Swedes.