Today it’s Midsummer’s eve in Sweden, probably the most important Swedish holiday, or maybe Christmas eve is just a little more important!?
We are in Puerto Rico still, going back to Brussels tomorrow, and we don’t have the possibility to celebrate in the usual style. The plan was this year to organise a party with our friends A & M who just moved to an apartment with a big terrace. Unfortunately we had to go house-hunting in the Caribbean instead… I was quite disappointed as it would have been my third Midsummer’s eve party in Brussels!
I will definitely organise a Midsummer’s eve party next year here in Puerto Rico, in case we don’t happen to go back to Europe in June… It is fun to introduce Swedish traditions to foreign friends, and I also always make sure to organise an Advent’s/glögg party before Xmas.
The classic “Swedish traditions abroad” moments include:
Chandler’s Ford (England), 1988: When we lived in Hampshire in England with the whole family; my parents had the idea to invite all the neighbours for a glögg party (glögg is the mulled wine/glühwein we drink in Sweden) and a Lucia procession… My father played the Lucia song on his trumpet and us kids (aged 13, 10 & 5) dressed in the traditional costumes and sang… I’m sure that our neighbours thought that we were completely crazy!!
Annecy (France),1998: When I was studying French, my fellow Swedish friends and I invited all the Japanese students at the language school for a glögg party – they all arrived in a big group, giggled when one of them got the almond in the rice porridge/riz au lait (different meanings in different families but we said that it meant that she would get married within a year), and left all at the same time! Funny was also making the ginger cookies without having a mortar and using a hammer to smash the cloves (kryddnejlikor) – they went everywhere!
Venice (Italy), 2000: The Nordic students (Swedes, Danes and Finns) of my master’s programme organised a Saint Lucia procession in the monastery where we studied. We sang Natten går tunga fjät (the Lucia song) in Swedish, Italian and Finnish! It was such a nice atmosphere in the courtyard when we entered singing with the candles (we made the crown for the Lucia with some wire, leaves and candles).
Padova (Italy), 2001: with my Danish and two Romanian flatmates, my neighbour from Sweden and the Italian boyfriend of the Danish girl. It was a conflict of Danish and Swedish traditions so it became a pic-nic with potato salad, meatballs and snaps. Don’t mix snaps with coke, it doesn’t taste too bad but gives you a bad headache, especially if you drink it in the sun. I think I got my first sun stroke that day, I was ill for three days with a fever!
Brussels (Belgium), 2005: I organised my first midsummer’s eve party and it was a big success even though the weather was almost too good. In Sweden the tendency is to have rain and cold weather for midsummer’s, despite the common misconception that it is always sunny and hot at this time of the year… (according to my experience it’s great weather in May & July). Anyway, that year it was over 30 degrees and so humid, and I didn’t have a terrace or garden so the 14 of us sat in my apartment and we were sweating like crazy. However, people still drank the snaps and sang the snaps songs – we were only THREE Swedes but the foreigners tried their best to sing along! It was O’s first midsummer and his first snaps songs but he sang like a pro (and like he understood the words!).
Brussels (Belgium), 2006: A & M were co-hosts with me and we had a proper may pole (made by the Spaniard O who just had a faint idea of how it should look – when we asked how he would make the rings, he just looked blank!), non-organic though (made of left-over carpet rolls, green wrapping paper stolen from the Brico store, some steel wire and paper flowers = it was beautiful!)… We were 24 persons in A’s & M’s huge apartment (pre-big terrace…) and even had a Swedish toast master who could set the tone for the snaps songs!
Happy Midsummer’s Eve!!