The summer solstice is almost here, which also means that Scandinavia is looking forward to their Midsummer celebrations.
The summer solstice marks the longest day of the year and the celebration of Midsummer. The summer solstice falls between June 19 and 25. While Midsummer is still celebrated today, it is also based on a long, rich Scandinavian history.
At the Scandinavain Shoppe, we are here to help you celebrate Midsummer and also find Scandinavian gifts that help you embrace your heritage. From maypoles to the dala horse and vikings, our shop has the perfect Scandinavian gift for you!
History of the tradition
Midsummer was originally a pagan holiday and represented a celebration of fertility and the summer solstice. But the Christian Church decided to recognize the Christian martyr John the Baptist with Saint John’s Day around the same time as Midsummer. John the Baptist was born six months before Jesus, placing his birthday on the night of June 24. This led to Midsummer celebrations occurring in conjunction to the feast for John the Baptist.
Now, pagan Midsummer traditions have been meshed with Christian traditions. Current celebrations can range from pilgrimages to holy springs and churches and a feast in honor of Saint John’s Day to decorating with greenery and flowers and lighting a bonfire to ward away unwanted spirits.
Since Midsummer has its roots in pagan and Scandinavian history, there are also many superstitions related to Midsummer, including rituals that involve bonfires and the collection of flowers and herbs. Midsommar krans (or Midsummer flower crowns) are popular to wear, especially while dancing around the maypole.
While most Scandinavian countries still celebrate Midsummer, the traditions vary from country to country. Below, we’ll look at just some of the Midsummer traditions in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Norway.
You’re probably familiar with the image of dancing around a maypole. This is a common tradition in Sweden to celebrate Midsummer. In the Viking Age, the Midsummer maypole was used to celebrate fertility and a rich harvest. Now, Midsummer has become a prominent festival that is held on the weekend closest to June 24.
The Lore: Placing greenery over houses and barns will bring good fortune and health to all people and livestock. It is also believed that if a girl picks seven different flowers and places them under her pillow, she will have dreams of her future husband.
The summer solstice was first called Ukon Juhla — or Ukko’s Celebration — after the Finnish god Ukko. After the holiday was Christianized, it became known as Juhannus after John the Baptist. To celebrate, Finns will burn bonfires and place birch branches around their front doors to welcome visitors. A maypole is also erected.
But in Finland, due to its location around the Arctic Circle, their Midsummer nights are very short, adding weight to the midnight sun.
The Lore: The Midsummer night was a popular night for rituals to help young maidens seek their suitors and fertility. Similar to Sweden, girls will still pick flowers and place them under their pillows to have dreams of their future husbands.
In Denmark, Midsummer is called Sankthans for St. John’s Eve. Medieval Danes would celebrate by rising early in the morning to go out and collect enough herbs to help cure people for the rest of the year.
Young Danes would also visit their holy springs as a reminder of how John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the River Jordan.
The Lore: Bonfires are a common way to celebrate Sankthans. It is believed that the fire will ward away witches and evil spirits.
Called Sankthansaften (or Jonsok, meaning “John’s Wake”) in Norway, Midsummer is commonly celebrated on June 23rd. Historically, Roman Catholics would pilgrimage to their churches on this day. Now, the main event involves the burning of a large bonfire, along with mock weddings that symbolize the blossoming of new life.
The Lore: Like in Sweden, it is said that if a girl places seven flowers under her pillow on the night of Sankthansaften, she will have dreams of her future husband.
Perfect Scandinavian Gifts
You can still celebrate Midsummer in your own way, even if you don’t live in a Scandinavian country. There are plenty of Scandinavian gifts you can buy for yourself or your Scandinavian friend this Midsummer.
If you’re planning your own Midsummer feast, this Scandinavian Gatherings cookbook will give your some traditional recipes. While you’re cooking, add this ceramic Midsummer pole to your countertop for your own mini maypole.
A great way to wish your friend happy Midsummer is this Swedish Midsummer card that turns into a standing maypole.
At Scandinavian Shoppe, we’re proud of our Scandinavian history. That’s why we work hard to provide you with Scandinavian gifts and heritage through our shop. Whether you’re celebrating for Midsummer or looking to add a Scandinavian touch to your home, make sure you browse all of our Scandinavian gifts and products!