By Sofie Kinnefors
VIKING DAY IN SAN DIEGO--Do you have to be a Swede to enjoy the celebration of Midsummer’s Eve? Not at all!
Midsummer’s Eve is a big holiday in Sweden and for the most part celebrated on a Friday. In San Diego, June 24 is Midsummer’s Eve will be feted on June 24.
OK, it got lost in the translation.
For most Swedes that means singing and dancing around a midsommarstång (a pole adorned with leaves and flowers, usually in the form of a cross with wreaths hanging from the crossbar), drinking schnapps and eating potatoes, pickled herring, sour cream and chives.
The Scandinavian tradition dates back to the Viking age. The celebration was held because of the summer solstice, the longest and brightest day of the year, and marked that the year had turned. From this day forward the days would become shorter and darker.
For those who are curious about the celebration, head on over to the House of Sweden Cottage in Balboa Park, San Diego. The cottage arranges a Midsummer Festival open to members of the cottage and the public every year on the third or fourth Sunday in June.
The day starts out with a member’s breakfast and decorating of the midsommarstång. It’s believed that the midsommarstång came to Sweden from Germany, where people would decorate using leaves and greenery for special occasions, year 1300 or 1400.
The festivities continue with entertainment by the Swedish Folkdance Club of Los Angeles, decked out in their beautiful folk costumes, at 2 p.m.
The historical significance of the midsummer celebration will be explained to the public, while visitors can enjoy traditional midsummer songs, sung by young children.
And most important of all, join the men, women and children wearing Swedish folk costumes singing and dancing around the midsommarstång accompanied by traditional accordion and fiddle music.
You may also spot women and children with flower wreaths in their hair. These are common during Midsummer’s Eve and are usually made with birch branches, leaves and flowers.
For those whose stomach starts growling after jumping around the midsommarstång for awhile there are Swedish meatballs, sweet rye bread and Swedish almond coffeecake for sale.
A private midsummer party will take place from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. (tickets have to be purchased in advance), where members and guests enjoy a traditional Midsummer Smorgasbord, including Swedish meatballs, new potatoes, pickled cucumbers, limpa, cheese and pickled herring.
Sofie Kinnefors is a journalist living in Encinitas, CA and Stockholm.
Image: Midsummer’s Eve being celebrated in Skansen (near Stockholm). Photo by Yanan Li courtesy of VisitStockholm.com