Swedish Midsummer

24 June 2011. Filed under category Travel.

Let’s start from the beginning. Big Bang created energy which clumped together as matter which clumped together into stars which clobbered together lighter atoms to make heavier elements. In a burst of rebellion, this heavy matter spread out during a super nova only to change its mind and start clumping together again as planets. On one such planet, self-replicating clumps of matter – life – got together to dance around a may pole and usually clump together, two and two, later on in the evening. This is called ‘Swedish Midsummer’.

Mid-what, you ask? Summer. We have summer because the earth rotates around its own axis. A hemisphere has summer when it leans towards the sun, but not because it is closer to the sun! If you are a defender of that tired old misconception then please stop confusing correlation with causation. Demeter’s custody of Persephone is a more believable explanation of summer than the relative distances of the hemispheres to the sun. In fact, the earth is five million kilometres – 392 earth diameters – closer to the sun in January than in June. The real cause of summer has to do with angles, but really, I’m here to talk about midsummer, not astronomy.

Midsummer started as a pagan fertility festival. The church tried to change it to become a celebration of St. John’s birthday. However, because the average Swede thinks of nothing but sex and alcohol in the height of summer, midsummer remains a pagan fertility festival.

If you are in Sweden during midsummer, get yourself invited to celebrate it with some locals. In recent years, there has been a rise in impostor-Swedes, so here is a helpful guide to know if you are at a genuine midsummer party.

The above pretty much sums up my own midsummer.


The Greek fertility goddess Demeter had a daughter, Persephone. Hades, ruler of the underworld, abducted Persephone and made her his wife. Demeter was furious and told the plants to stop growing until Hades returned her daughter. When the resulting famine threatened the survival of humanity, Zeus suggested a compromise where Persephone would spend half the year with Demeter and the other with Hades.


Have you survived a Swedish midsummer? Would you like to?

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  1. Clokey says:

    You forgot the tradition of gambling on how many Finn’s will drown during midsummer. At least I was told that’s what Swede’s do when I did midsummer in Finland.

    Aside from that your guide is accurate. Nakedness and beer, happy days

  2. Jono says:

    I remember many of those faces in the photos. It must have been five years (?) since I was in Sweden for Midsummer…. memories.

    However, I would like to hear more about angles and astronomy rather than being nostalgic.

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      Sorry, nostalgia is all I have to offer. That was back in 2007, and I do believe what you are holding are some grotesquely rude lyrics.

  3. That must have been one of the best midsummer celibrations! I think it was about 5 years ago, Gustav do you have any more pics from that, would be nice to go down the midsummer memory lane

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      It was 2007, and sure I’ve got pics. I’ve sent you a little link to a map giving directions to a secret location where you’ll find someone who has the key to the chest containing the pictures.

  4. Vasilis says:

    I have been in Stockholm for a midsummer and all I remember is that the sun never set, had too many drinks on the Flyt (an open-air bar on a boat) and coming out of the Opera club at 3 am being shocked at the need of sunglasses!

    But everyone was happy in a summer mood! And the blue waters engulfing the city were part of the magic (the sea is a must for a Greek)!

    I want to go back again…

  5. Pip says:

    Sounds like a future plan my darling! X

  6. What do you mean pagan fertility festivities?

    We have moved the rings on the pole from ground level where they used to be, symbolising… Well, you get the picture.

    Also, if it is a really great midsummer party the rain should start pouring right in the middle of dinner – which must be held outside – it’s tradition.

    …and the mosquitos… They must be invited.

Have you survived a Swedish midsummer? Would you like to?

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