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How to celebrate Midsummer like the Swedes

Traditional dance

Midsommar is the second most important celebration in Sweden after Christmas. The festival celebrates the beginning of summer and takes place between the 19th and 26th of June, close to the summer solstice and marks the end of the long, dark and cold winter.

While the outdoor festival is often associated with writer and director Ari Aster’s nightmarish Midsommar movie from 2019, Sweden’s actual traditions celebrate the fertility, magic and healing properties of nature and plants. Travel to Sweden in summer and experience the enchanting Midsummer festival with your own eyes!

Quintessential summer celebration

The holiday originated from the pre-Christian solstice festival. According to Pagan lore, the border between our world and the world of the spirits is at its thinnest during the summer solstice.

Given the country’s dark and long winters, it is no surprise that the arrival of summer is much awaited throughout the year and celebrated with lots of greenery, flowers and dances. Midsummer brings whole communities together when friends and family gather in the lush green parks at noon to start the celebrations.

Midsummer traditions

Traditional lunch

The centre piece of traditional Midsummer celebrations is the midsommarstång, the maypole. Originally a Germanic tradition from the late 17th century, the maypole is decorated with lots of flowers and greenery and placed in central places in parks and towns. It is customary to dance around the pole, sometimes in traditional dresses.

Also wearing a wreath made of flowers, the midsommarkrans, is a Swedish tradition that goes way back and symbolises nature’s rebirth and fertility. You can either create your own crown or pick one up at the local flower shops.

Hungry from picking flowers and dancing around the maypole? Midsommar involves a relaxed lunch and many Swedes consider it to be the best meal of the year! The dishes resemble the ones eaten around Christmas and Easter but they also include seasonal products.

From sill (pickled herring), sour cream and new potatoes with dill to salmon, chives and cheese quiche, crowned with the first strawberries of the summer with cream as a dessert – this lunch is a feast for the senses. Drinks also flow freely, ranging from beers to different kinds of flavoured and spicy schnapps.

The celebrations last until late into the short and bright night, full of drinks and outdoor games.

Where to celebrate Midsummer in Sweden

Flower crown

Swedish Midsummer is a festivity not to miss when visiting the Scandinavian country during summer. If you are looking for the traditional experience, make sure to visit the countryside. Even small Swedish villages will host their own festivities.

In bigger cities like Stockholm and Gothenburg, you can join the festivities in public parks.

Wherever you are in Sweden during Midsummer, you’ll be met with celebrations everywhere throughout the long summer night. Also make sure to pick seven different kinds of flowers and put them under your pillow before sleeping on Midsummer’s eve – legend has it that a woman's future husband will visit her in her dreams that night. Just don’t tell anyone about who it was or it won’t come true!

What do in Stockholm during Midsummer 

Celebrate the most important holiday in Sweden, next to christmas, at the world's oldest open-air museum Skansen. At Skansen, Midsummer is celebrated for three days, from 23 to 25 June, with programmes going on from morning into the bright summer night.
Midsummer has been celebrated the old-fashioned way since Skansen's first year, with the hoisting of a maypole and dances around it, as well as folk dances performed by young people in traditional costumes on the dance floor. At Skansen you will find all the fun activities for this great festival that will entertain both young and old.

For an inclusive midsummer celebration go to Hasselbacken. The festivities there include all the essential elements of the festival, but prepare for unexpected surprises! The party will host drag show artist Martin "Miss Inga" Johansson. After the party, the celebrations continue with an open bars, restaurants and DJs.