June 25th, 2005



The weather cooperated and for one of the very few times in the 8 midsummers I've celebrated in Sweden, everything went off just right under a warm summer sun. Everywhere you looked, blue and yellow flags and pennants were snapping gaily in the breeze. We met up with a group of Anders' old friends in Älmhult, a little village 2 hours north of us, and celebrated a compleat midsummer, rife with the smell of strawberries, wildflowers and sunshine.

We joined the village celebration and were treated to accordion music, the sight of ladies young and old sporting flower wreaths in their hair, and the traditional dressing of the midsummer pole, gaily and gaudily clad in lupines as a crowning touch. A troop of musicians and dancers marched in a colorful procession bearing the midsummer pole and put it up to much applause. Then they danced a series of old folk circle and reel dances, smiling and bobbing and weaving gracefully in and out, trading partners smoothly and swiftly. After the MC had described their traditional dress in detail, spotlighting each costume and which part of Sweden it was from, it was time for the crowd to dance. 2 happy circles of smiling people ringed the midsummer greenery, and much hopping, hand gestures, laughing and circling ensued.

Thanks to a new book of recipes, Anders outdid himself with the herring, treating us to 6 different kinds, including onion, mustard, tarragon, and apple-sourcream-curry). Our midsummer celebration is typically a potluck, and we brought the herring, along with sourcream and chives for the new potatoes. A traditional Swedish midsummer feast consists of a very specific menu, and to deviate is nearly unthinkable. Swedes take their food traditions very seriously. Whatever the feast begins with, and continues with, tradition demands that it end with strawberries. It's a point of pride that the strawberries be Swedish. None of those overpriced, steroid-enlarged, suspiciously NON-Swedish imports will do, oh no.

Mikael and Lene's 2 lovely and well-bred cocker spaniels helped start healing the dog-sized hole in my heart by being extra adorable and friendly all evening. Karin, Sophia and Anton diligently put together and dressed a smaller midsummer pole and put it up proudly by the dinner table in the yard. After eating, all 11 children, high on summer, buzzed and sprang with unbelievable energy; they must have run a million laps around the house, chasing each other in screeching exuberance, while we sat talking and laughing and singing snapsvisor* until the crowds of tiny, biting gnats drove us all inside in the late evening gloaming.

(Midsummer Gallery)

*schnapps drinking songs