“Midsummer rivals Christmas as the most important and popular tradition in Sweden”, says Annika Wahlberg, Managing Director at the Swedish Chamber of Commerce for the UK, the organisation behind the event.
Midsummer celebrations dates back to the 6th century AD and has since been celebrated to commemorate John the Baptist and in agrarian times to welcome summertime and the season of fertility. People used to decorate their houses and farm tools with foliage, and put up tall, leafy maypoles to dance around, probably as early as in the 16th century. Today it is one of the most Swedish of all traditional festivities.
“Summers are short in Sweden, but also very bright, warm and intensely green. We make the most of it, because we know that the dark winters are not that far away”, says Peter Sandberg, Communications Manager, Swedish Chamber of Commerce. “Midsummer Night is the lightest of the year and was long considered a magical night. In the north, the sun never sets. This is why, rain or shine, you will see Swedes dancing around May Poles, having picnics outdoors for Midsummer. In fact, most people head for the countryside to celebrate, in nature”.
The Midsummer smorgasbord features different kinds of pickled herring, boiled new potatoes with fresh dill, soured cream and raw red onion, alongside a whole range of other foods. Compulsory is also the first, and as such usually very expensive, fresh strawberries of the summer. Served with the food is cold beer and Swedish schnapps, often spiced. “There will be plenty of singing in Hyde Park. It is a Swedish tradition to sing every time a glass is refilled. Swedes like drinking-songs. Luckily we produce song sheets with English lyrics for those interested in joining the chorus”, says Annika Wahlberg.
In essence: “Do not be afraid if you see singing Swedes, with flower wreaths on their heads dancing as little frogs around a fertility symbol in Hyde Park on 25 June. It is business as usual”, says Peter Sandberg.
The Swedish Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1906 and has around 400 Member companies, representing not only Swedish companies but also British and European companies interested in strengthening their existing ties with Sweden and the UK or expanding to new markets. Today the Swedish Chamber is one of the largest and most active foreign Chambers in the UK.