Swedish Midsommar: A Celebration of Summer and Tradition in June 23, 2023

Cafe Smorgas Team

Cafe Smorgas Team

The Magic of Midsommar: Celebrating the Swedish Summer

Ah, summertime in Sweden. The days are long, the sun is shining, and it’s time to celebrate the season with one of the country’s most beloved festivals: Midsommar. Held every year in late June, Midsommar (or Midsummer) is a centuries-old tradition that brings together friends and family for dancing, feasting, and revelry. 

A Brief Overview of Midsommar Festival

Midsommar is a celebration of the summer solstice – the longest day of the year – which falls on June 21st or 22nd depending on the year. It’s a time to welcome in summer and all its joys: warm weather, bountiful harvests, and plenty of sunlight. The festival has been celebrated in Sweden for centuries, with roots dating back to pagan times. 

Today, Midsommar is one of Sweden’s most important holidays and a time when people across the country come together to celebrate their shared heritage. The festival typically lasts several days and involves a variety of customs including dancing around maypoles (known as Majstång), feasting on traditional foods like herring and potatoes (known as Smörgåsbord), and drinking shots of schnapps (known as snaps). 

The Origins and Evolution of Midsommar Festival

The origins of Midsommar are rooted in pagan traditions that predate Christianity in Scandinavia. In these ancient times, people believed that spirits lived among them – both good and bad – and that special rituals were required to appease these spirits. 

One such ritual was midsummer bonfires: large fires would be lit to ward off evil spirits during this magical time when light was at its strongest. Over time these bonfires evolved into more elaborate celebrations, and eventually the festival of Midsommar as we know it today. 

Midsommar Shirt

The Significance of Midsommar in Swedish Culture

Midsommar is an important holiday in Swedish culture, representing a time of renewal and connection with nature. The festival is seen as a way to welcome the summer season and to connect with family and friends. It’s also a time when people take pride in their heritage, dressing in traditional clothing and participating in customs that have been passed down for generations. 

Overall, Midsommar is a magical time to be in Sweden – a time when the country comes alive with celebration, song, and dance. Whether you’re Swedish or just visiting for the first time, experiencing Midsommar is an unforgettable experience that will stay with you forever. 

Origins and Evolution of the Festival

Midsommar Festival is a Swedish tradition that dates back to pre-Christian times. It was originally celebrated as a pagan fertility rite to mark the summer solstice, which falls on or around June 21st each year. At this time, the days are longest and the nights shortest in Sweden. 

Over time, the festival evolved into a celebration of Saint John the Baptist, who baptized Jesus Christ in the River Jordan. The feast day for Saint John is on June 24th, so Midsommar Festival typically takes place on or around that date. 

Historical Significance and Cultural Traditions

Midsommar Festival has been an important part of Swedish culture for centuries. It’s a time when families and communities come together to celebrate the arrival of summer and enjoy each other’s company. Traditionally, Midsommar was also seen as a time when magic was at its most potent. 

There were many rituals and customs associated with Midsommar that were believed to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. One such custom is the raising of the maypole (Majstång) which symbolizes fertility and new life. 

The maypole is decorated with flowers and leaves before it is raised in an open area where people can dance around it. Another tradition is making flower wreaths (Blomsterkransar) to wear on your head during celebrations. 

These wreaths are made from wildflowers picked in fields or meadows. Overall, this Festival represents a time when Swedes come together to celebrate their heritage, culture, and traditions while also enjoying all that summer has to offer! 

Preparations for Midsommar

Decorating the Maypole (Majstång)

One of the major components of these celebrations in Sweden is the maypole or Majstång. Traditionally, young people from the village go out into the woods to cut down a tall tree that will serve as the maypole. Once it has been decorated, it’s raised in the village square for all to see. 

The maypole is usually decorated with greenery and flowers, including birch leaves and wildflowers. It’s then adorned with colorful ribbons that are wrapped around it from top to bottom. 

The maypole is an important part of Midsommar celebrations as it’s a symbol of fertility and new life. It represents growth and prosperity, making it one of the most treasured decorations during this time. 

Gathering Flowers and Creating Wreaths (Blomsterkransar)

Another important preparation is gathering flowers and creating wreaths or Blomsterkransar. This tradition dates back centuries when young women would create wreaths made out of wildflowers to wear on their heads during celebrations. Today, many Swedish families continue this tradition by gathering wildflowers like daisies, buttercups, and violets to create beautiful floral arrangements. 

The wreaths are typically made out of birch twigs that are woven together into a circle shape before adding in the flowers. These circular flower crowns are worn by both adults and children during Midsommar festivities. 

Traditional Foods and Drinks (Smörgåsbord, Snaps)

No celebration in Sweden is complete without food! During Midsommar, traditional foods like pickled herring (Sill), boiled potatoes with dill (Färskpotatis), and sour cream with chives (Gräddfil) are served in abundance. 

Additionally, the Swedish Smörgåsbord or buffet-style meal is a staple during the festival. A popular drink served during Midsommar is snaps, a type of flavored liquor that’s often consumed by taking a small shot followed by singing traditional songs or Snapsvisor. 

This tradition dates back to the 16th century when it was believed that drinking alcohol before meals would stimulate the appetite. Preparing for Midsommar in Sweden is an exciting time for families and communities alike. 

From decorating the maypole with colorful ribbons and flowers to creating beautiful floral wreaths, every aspect of preparation is filled with joy and anticipation for this special celebration. And let’s not forget about the delicious traditional foods and drinks that complete this festive occasion! 

Celebrating Midsommar

Dancing around the Maypole (Majdans)

One of the most iconic traditions of Midsommar is dancing around the maypole, also known as the Majstång. The maypole is usually decorated with flowers and leaves, and placed in a central location for everyone to gather around. The dance itself involves people holding hands and skipping around the pole in a circular motion, while singing traditional songs. 

The dance is led by a group of musicians playing instruments such as accordions or fiddles. The tempo of the music sets the pace for the dancers, who move faster or slower depending on the rhythm. 

As the song progresses, people switch partners frequently to keep everyone involved. The majdans is a joyful occasion for all ages, bringing communities together to celebrate nature and each other’s company. 

Singing Traditional Songs (Sjunga snapsvisor)

Midsommar wouldn’t be complete without singing traditional songs, also known as sjunga snapsvisor. These songs are typically about nature, love, drinking or all three combined! They are sung throughout celebrations and especially at meals where it’s common to raise your glass and sing before taking a shot of aquavit (a Scandinavian spirit). 

There are many different songs that are sung during Midsommar festivities but some classics include “Helan går” which means “the whole one goes down” which usually signals that it’s time for another drink! Singing these songs creates a sense of unity amongst participants while also adding an element of fun to celebrations. 

Playing Games and Participating in Activities (Tävlingar)

Along with dancing and singing there are several games played during Midsommar celebrations including egg races or äggpickning in Swedish. In this game two participants each hold an egg and race to the finish line – the winner is the one whose egg remains intact. Another popular game is kubb, which involves throwing wooden blocks at your opponents’ blocks in order to knock them over. 

This game is played in teams of two and can get competitive! Other outdoor activities include swimming, canoeing, and hiking through beautiful forests and countryside. 

The focus on being outdoors and enjoying nature is a core part of Midsommar celebrations. Overall, participating in various games and activities during Midsommar adds an element of fun and excitement to the festivities while also bringing people together to enjoy each other’s company. 

Regional Variations of Midsommar Celebrations

Midsommar is one of the most important festivals in Sweden and is celebrated across the country. However, different regions have their own unique way of celebrating this festival. From the way they decorate their maypoles to the dishes they serve during the feast, every region has its own customs and traditions that make Midsommar a special celebration. 


Dalarna is a province in central Sweden that has preserved many of its ancient traditions including those related to Midsommar. Here, people decorate their maypoles with colorful ribbons and wreaths made out of wildflowers. They also perform a traditional folk dance around the maypole called “Ryktet går” (The Rumour Goes), which involves circling around each other in pairs. 

The food served during Midsommar in Dalarna includes pickled herring, boiled potatoes with dill, meatballs, and lingonberry sauce. For dessert, locals make a special pastry called “lördagsgodis” (Saturday Sweets) filled with whipped cream and fruit jam. 


In Skåne, located in southern Sweden, Midsommar celebrations are known for their lively dancing and singing. The maypole is decorated with greenery and flowers and raised on Midsummer’s Eve before people start dancing around it to traditional folk music. 

The most popular dance here is called “Små grodorna” (Small Frogs) where participants hop around like frogs while singing. Food-wise, Skåne’s cuisine features pickled herring served with new potatoes or crispbread topped with cheese or smoked salmon spread called “rökt lax”. 


Stockholm being Sweden’s capital city hosts one of the biggest Midsommar celebrations in the country. The city’s Skansen Open-Air Museum hosts a traditional Midsommar celebration where visitors can witness the raising of the maypole, participate in folk dancing, and try out traditional food. The maypole is decorated with birch leaves and wildflowers while locals adorn their clothes with flower wreaths. 

The popular dances include “Dans kring granen” (Dancing around the Christmas Tree) and “På tå hejdlös” (On Toe Unrestrained). Food served at Stockholm’s Midsommar celebration includes pickled herring, smoked salmon, boiled potatoes with dill, crispbread with cheese spread or caviar paste, and strawberry cake. 


Swedish people love to celebrate Midsommar Festival in their own special way depending on where they live. Whether you visit Dalarna or Skåne or attend Stockholm’s grand Midsommar festival at Skansen Open-Air Museum, you are sure to witness unique traditions and customs that make this festival special for Swedish people. 

Fun Facts about Midsommar

Midnight Sun

The Midnight Sun

One of the most unique aspects of Midsommar in Sweden is the phenomenon known as the midnight sun. Due to Sweden’s location near the Arctic Circle, during the summer months, the sun never fully sets in many parts of the country. 

This means that on Midsommar, people can celebrate well into the night under a bright sky, with no need for artificial lighting. It’s a surreal experience that truly embodies the spirit of summer solstice celebrations. 

The Origin of Flower Crowns

Flower crowns are a staple accessory during Midsommar celebrations in Sweden. However, few people know that their origins can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome, where they were worn to honor gods and goddesses and symbolized purity and fertility. Over time, this tradition spread across Europe and eventually became associated with midsummer festivals like Midsommar in Sweden. 

The Role of Elves

In Swedish folklore, elves (or “älvor”) play an important role in Midsommar celebrations. It’s believed that they come out at night to dance around maypoles and bless young couples with good luck and fertility. As a result, it’s customary to leave offerings such as food or flowers for them at various places throughout the celebration. 

Unique Customs and Lesser-Known Details about the Festival

Burning Effigies

In some parts of Sweden, it’s traditional to burn effigies of witches on Midsommarafton (the eve of Midsummer). This custom originates from pagan times when fires were used to ward off evil spirits. Today, it’s more symbolic than superstitious but still serves as an integral part of many Swedes’ celebration. 

The Smorgasbord Feast

No Midsommar celebration is complete without a smorgasbord feast. This traditional Swedish buffet-style meal features a variety of dishes, including pickled herring, boiled potatoes, meatballs, and more. It’s not uncommon for people to spend hours eating and socializing during this part of the festivities. 

Decorating the Maypole

The maypole (or “Majstång”) is an essential part of any Midsommar celebration in Sweden. It’s typically decorated with flowers and greenery as a symbol of spring rebirth and new beginnings. However, each region has its own unique way of adorning the pole. 

For example, in Dalarna, colorful ribbons are tied to the top instead of flowers. Overall, Midsommar in Sweden is a unique and vibrant celebration that combines ancient pagan traditions with modern-day revelry. 

Fun facts such as the midnight sun and elf offerings add an element of mystique to the festivities while customs like burning effigies and feasting on smorgasbord connect Swedes to their cultural roots. Whether you’re a native or an outsider experiencing it for the first time, there’s no denying that Midsommar is truly one-of-a-kind celebration that embodies all things summer solstice. 


Midsommar is a truly unique and vibrant celebration that has been a beloved tradition in Sweden for centuries. From its humble origins as a pagan fertility festival to its modern-day incarnation as a joyful community gathering, Midsommar has stood the test of time and remained an important cultural touchstone for Swedes everywhere. Throughout this article, we’ve explored the fascinating history of Midsommar, from its early days as a primitive pre-Christian rite to its current form as a bright and colorful event filled with music, dancing, and laughter.