Midsummer celebrations in Sweden were held to welcome summertime and the season of fertility. Latterly to commemorate John the Baptist. Midsummer Day was originally on 24th June but now it is moved the nearest weekend to the 24th with Midsummer Eve on the Friday
Just as in other parts of Europe the festival centred round an ancient agricultural ritual. Elsewhere other countries made a great bonfire but because this is the lightest night of the year in Sweden the bonfires were replaced by another ancient summer tradition; that of the maypole. Maypoles are believed to be part of an old fertility rite, the pole being a phallus that "impregnates" Mother Nature. It was hoped that properly celebrating this rite would help to give a good harvest in the autumn
Tradition says that on their way home, girls and young women are supposed to pick seven different species of flowers and lay them under their pillows. She must remain alone while picking the flowers and observe total silence. A flower from the churchyard increased the magical powers of the bouquet, as did picking flowers from the banks of three different roads at a crossroads. That night, their future husbands would appear to them in a dream.
Midsummer today is a national holiday in Sweden. Families and friends meet and eat pickled herring and new potatoes washed down with schnapps and beer. Wherever people live they seek out a place where a maypole is raised and there is dancing and games – like the famous 'frog dance' (små grodorna) - for the children
This was the first time that I have been in Sweden on 13th December, the day of Santa Lucia.
Traditionally young girls dressed in white with lighted candles in their hair (now battery operated) and served coffee and sweet rolls to the poor and needed.
As all things the enactment is now celebrate and at Ulricehamn we were treated to a young choir first, then a brass band and finally the five girls chosen to be Santa Lucia and her attendants sang individually to a fairly large crowd gathered in the square.
All was conducted outside on a bitterly cold evening. The final act was a procession of Santa Lucia and her attendants through the main street of Ulricehamn by pony and open carriage.
Santa Lucia herself can be seen sitting in her carriage on my home page.
The history of why a 4th Century Sicilian saint has become so revered in Sweden