Tag Archives: midsommar

Midsummer in Scandinavia

June 19, 2018 | Leave a comment

 

Midsummer in Scandinavia

Midsummer, to Swedes especially, is one of the biggest celebrations of the year. In Sweden, the date moves each year, as it is an official holiday – and it is always celebrated on a Friday. With the official midsummer day of the year being 23 June, it is always moved to the closest Friday (for 2018, this is 22 June and 21 June for 2019). In Denmark and Norway, the date doesn’t move – it is always celebrated on the evening of 23 June.

In Sweden, Midsommar is simply known as that, whereas in Denmark and Norway
the name has changed to St Hans Aften (‘St John’s Eve’). That’s the official name, although it’s also known as Midsommer.

As the longest day of the year, midsummer was a very important day in the pagan
calendar. The Vikings used this night to visit healing water wells and had huge bonfires to ward off evil spirits. These celebrations go back to Freyia and Freyr, the Norse gods of fertility. The Vikings worshipped fertility on this day – and hoped for a rich harvest.

Today, you see the remains of these old traditions both in Sweden and Denmark.
Sweden’s midsummer symbol is now a midsummer pole, Midsommarstång, decorated with flowers. (It was originally a Maypole, likely brought over from Germany, but there weren’t enough flowers to decorate it in May so it is now used in June instead.) In Denmark and Norway (and parts of Finland), the bonfires won out and are still the main symbol of midsummer.

In Sweden, schools and offices close and it is the time for friends and families to get together. People wear flower garlands in their hair; some wear traditional dresses or just long, light-coloured dresses. Younger men wear traditional accepted Stockholm clothing for Swedish dudes: light-coloured, tight trousers, pointy shoes, fashionable sunglasses and slicked-back hair. Maybe a crown of flowers.

The flower garlands are a major part of the outfit. Most people make their own while
sitting in a field, waiting to celebrate and for someone to crack open the aquavit. People gather wild flowers and the garlands are made for grown-ups as well as children. This adds to the picture-perfect setting – everything becomes wonderfully colourful and happy, as people sit in nature and enjoy the lightest day of the year.

Thus properly attired, they gather to raise the midsummer pole, which is decorated with more flowers and leaves and can be anything from small poles in private
gardens to massive poles in the town centers.

Where food is concerned, everybody brings a picnic or has a midsummer lunch together. Lunch always consists of pickled herring, new potatoes with dill, meatballs, cheese… Not dissimilar to food at other Swedish celebrations, but with a lot more strawberries, as these are usually just in season when midsummer comes around. This is also a big day for smörgåstårta – a popular dish for high seasons. Essentially, this is a massive sandwich made with white bread, covered in a litre of mayonnaise and decorated in the best 1980’s style. Then eaten like a cake, by the slice. With this, people enjoy aquavit, in shots (nubbe). Roughly one shot to every two beers and Bjørn will be playing footsie with Gunhilde before you know it.

Drinking songs, such as ‘Helan går’, are sung, shots are enjoyed and after a few of those, almost everybody will feel ready to dance. Don’t worry if you can’t sing songs in Swedish, after two or three nubbar, people automatically develop a peculiar singsong fluency in Swedish. The party then gathers around the midsummer pole to hold hands and starts to run around in circles, pretending to be little frogs with no ears and tail. This is the traditional Swedish song – sung at every party – called ‘Små grodarna’ (the ‘Little Frogs’). If you are ever invited to join in, you must oblige. It would be rude not to and nobody feels embarrassed about this dance. Once it’s over, you’ll be allowed to get back to more food and aquavit.

The afternoon is usually spent playing games, such as Kubb (Viking chess) and an odd version of rounders called Bränball. When people have finished eating and playing, the dancing continues – as does the drinking. The party will go on until last man standing, with darkness never setting on this lightest day of the year.

On this night, it is also tradition to pick seven different kinds of wild flowers. Put them under your pillow before going to bed and you will dream of the person you will marry. This makes Tinder-swiping a whole lot easier as you will now know what he or she looks like.

In Denmark and Norway, people are a little more controlled in their midsummer celebrations. It is not a public holiday and, while it is still a big celebration, it is by no means as big as in Sweden. The celebrations centre around big bonfires, usually by the shore or in town centres. Bonfires, originally intended to ward off evil spirits, have become slightly warped in Denmark over the years. Nowadays, they signify the burning of witches. Each bonfire has a witch made out of straw, dressed in old ladies’ clothing and stuffed with whistle crackers. The fire is lit and everybody waits for the witch to catch fire, the whistles signifying her screams. Legend has it that, by doing this, you send the witch off to the Brocken mountain in Germany to dance with the Devil.

As they watch the witch burn, people sing songs about how much they love Denmark. There is usually a guy with a guitar and no socks. He plays songs slowly, with his eyes closed. There may or may not be skinny dipping. At midsummer in Denmark, kids will usually be making snobrød (‘twist bread’) – its bread dough wrapped around .a twig and baked on the fire. Except it never bakes, so you everyone ends up with a stomach ache from eating raw dough covered in jam. The fire ends and people go home. Unlike Sweden, this isn’t a massive party, but a much calmer affair (save the burning of witches, of course; some may find this rather sinister).

From the dancing and the ancient traditions to the seasonal food and togetherness, Midsummer in Scandinavia is an enchanted time and writing about it doesn’t do it full justice. The light is entirely spellbinding – and it’s something to be experienced. The day after Midsummer in Sweden, in particular, is a whole different ball game – and it’s yours alone to deal with. The ‘where are my shoes?’ questions will inevitably start to be pondered on. Who are you? Who am I?

For anyone who has partaken of a traditional Swedish Midsummer, the day after is likely to be long – and very slow. But you’ll always have the memories.

Or not.

ScandiKitchen is celebrating Midsummer – we even have a Midsummer pole and every year, we have to stop drunken Swedes from trying to walk off with it. All part of the fun. Stock up on your Midsummer foods in our London grocery store open every week day until 19:00 and Saturday until 18:00. Online here www.scandikitchen.co.uk

Extract MIDSUMMER taken from our Bronte’s best selling book Nørth: how to live Scandinavian, published by Aurum, with stunning photography by Anna Jacobsen. Get your copy on Amazon – it has everything you need to know to live a Scandi life, from Hygge to Lagom to how to wear a Norwegian jumper.

Available in Italian here
Available in German here
Available in French here

In America? Get it here.

In Canada? Get it here?

Get it signed here (or pop by the cafe in London, Bronte will be super happy to sign it for you and have a chit chat if she is around. She is not at all scary)

How to do a Scandi Midsummer at Home

June 12, 2018 | Leave a comment

How to do a Scandi Midsummer at Home

Midsummer is one of the most important days in the Nordic calendar – especially for the Swedes where it is a huge holiday (and hangover).

Here’s a guide on how to make your own Swedish Midsummer Buffet and celebrations at home.

When to celebrate

Swedes always move Midsummer to the nearest Friday for Summer Solistice. This year that means Friday 22nd June. This day is a holiday in Sweden and everybody will be out all day celebrating in the sunshine (read: rain). When celebrating abroad, most move it to the Saturday (23rd June in 2018) so we can benefit from a full day of sitting outside, hoping it will not rain.

How to set the scene

Flowers and green stuff. Everywhere. Outside is preferable – in a park, in your garden, by a lake or even on your balcony if you have no outside space. Midsummer is all about the outdoors.

What to wear

Something light in colour, flowers in your hair. Real flower garlands are a must for all! Be at one with nature (avoid walking around naked – that’s too much. Especially before the first bottle of aquavit has been opened).

What to eat

Make a Smörgåsbord buffet or a picnic (Smörgåsbord just means ‘laid out table – a buffet). Both will contain the same sort of foods. We have added ** for things that are essential – the other stuff are fillers: add as many as you fancy or have time to do.

• Pickled herring** (Mustard herring and Matjes Herring are two solid choices). Recipe for Mustard herring is here or get it ready to serve here. Arrange in bowls, decorate with onions rings on top and dill sprigs.

• Gubbröra – boiled egg with pickled sprats. Eat with crispbread. Find the recipe in our first cookbook.

• Gravad Lax cured salmon and Dill & Mustard Sauce ** (goes well with rye bread)

Västerbotten Quiche – a beautiful Swedish cheese pie, perfect eaten cold. Top with caviar sauce (red lumpfish roe mixed with a few large spoonsfuls of crème fraiche or sour cream). If you can’t be bothered to make the quiche, just serve the cheese on its own with a dollop of cloudberry jam. Or, like us – do both! Cheese pie with a side of cheese.

• New potatoes ** – Cook and cool down, dress with melted butter and fresh dill. When you serve them, you do so with a bowl of what Swedes call Gräddfill on the side – it’s similar to crème fraiche – but lighter. You can get the exact same thing by mixing half natural yoghurt and half crème fraiche (or simply buy your gräddfill from us here). Add lots of chopped chives with the gräddfill, too – essential. A great match for Matjes herring. Here is a recipe for a simple potato and dill salad.

• Swedish Meatballs**. Well, you didn’t think you could avoid meatballs, did you? You can find a recipe on how to make your own here. We stock some really delicious ones, too – very meaty and with just the right spice from a slow food producer called Per I Viken (budget 2-3 meatballs per person of these – they are quite filling). If you use the smaller supermarket variety, budget about 120g per person.

• Beetroot Salad** It wouldn’t be Midsummer without a good beetroot salad. You can find a recipe here – or get your hands on our own version here. If you pop by the café, we’ll usually be able to sell some of our homemade salad to you by the kilo, also, if you ask nicely.

• Extra salads – if you fancy making a more elaborate spread, try the Courgette & Västerbotten salad here or the Curried cauliflower with rye grain for something different? Or even a nice fresh kale salad with apple here – or how about a lovely slaw?

• This Beetroot Tart is a fab veggie option that both tastes and looks stunning.

• Bread **. Make a bread basket of lovely crispbread, rye bread and crusty bread so there is something for everyone.

• Cheeses – if you want to add a cheese selection, we recommend Västerbotten (truly a phenomenal cheese, especially with Cloudberry jam on top), and then an Åseda – a mild, super creamy cheese that everyone loves. You can also perhaps add a bit of Danish cheese – the Riberhus with caraway is lovely and has a good bite to it. Don’t forget you need cheese slicers.

• Dessert has to incorporate strawberries** – that’s the law. The more strawberries the better. In Sweden, most people will make a strawberry layer cake – 3 sponge or genoise sponge layers, with half pastry cream half whipped cream in the middle. Add chopped strawberries in side in the layers, and cover the whole thing in more strawberries. An easier option of Strawberries and cream also works! Here’s the cheat’s version for the cake and the full recipe.

What to drink

Aquavit** is needed for your cheering and singing – for Midsummer, the delicious light Elderflower aquavit is great (Hallands Fläder) or try the most traditional OP Andersson. Serve slightly chilled in shot glasses. Be warned, it gets you drunk from the waist down.

Here’s a link to the songs you need to know for the aquavit cheering:

Aquavit Songs (Snapsvisor) for Midsummer

Also, serve nice beers (God Lager, Tuborg, Lapin Kulta etc) – and wine, if preferred, but this is less traditional (and doesn’t work so well with aquavit, so do be careful of who you’re playing footsie with under the table).

A nice non-alcoholic drink is Elderflower or Lingonberry Cordial – great both with still and sparkling water.

How to arrange the table and buffet if you’re having the party at home and not in a park:

If arranging on a separate Smörgåsbord buffet table (recommended for 10 people or more), always arrange the fish at one end, starting with the herring, followed by any other fish dishes. Follow it with cold meats, then warm meats, side dishes and finally bread and butter. Cheese can be placed by the bread section or served separately at the end as a cheese board. Dessert is not usually brought out until the main smörgåsbord has been eaten.

Always start with herring and a shot of aquavit (butter some rye bread or crisp bread, add a few slices of herring on top, eat with a knife and fork, drink a shot of aquavit, and everybody cheers together). After a few sing songs, tuck into the rest of the meal.

Glad Midsommar!

PS if you’re still in doubt on what to do, here’s a Midsummer for Dummies guide:

Swedish Midsummer – How To Celebrate – Therese’s Way

June 9, 2016 | Leave a comment

Swedish Midsummer – How I Celebrate

Swedes all over Love midsummer (you might have seen Alicia Vikander on Jimmy Fallon..? If not, we’ve included the clip for you below). There are many ways to celebrate, and this week, our Thérèse shares her way of celebrating. Over to you, T!

” Hej! I am Thérèse and I’m located in Stockhome. I recently moved to London from Sweden. It doesn’t matter where I am this time of year – I always celebrate midsummer.

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Photo credit: Conny Fridh/imagebank.sweden.se

Midsummer for me is all about having fun, celebrating with friends and eat a lot of food. I often celebrate the holiday on the actual midsummer eve (this year – 24th June) ‘midsommarafton’ – but it really depends on when my friends are free to celebrate.

Growing up I spent most of my summers in the summerhouse in the west of Sweden, and we would usually go to the closest local midsummer event to celebrate there. These days the place of the celebration varies – either in a park or at someone’s house – usually the friend with the best garden. One thing remains the same wherever though – flower garlands in my hair. It’s essential.

Making_midsummer_flower_garlands-06

 

What do we eat at midsummer?

Food is of course very important during midsummer. My friends and I often prepare a buffet together. We cook most of the food ourselves but we usually buy some things, like nibbles, ready made. That way we can nibble whilst we cook and take our time with it. We usually get snacks like sour cream and onion crisps, dill crisps, cheese corn snacks and some beer to drink.

The buffet has certain ‘rules’ to it – the first round is all about herring and bread. Having a good range of herring is essential. My favourites have always been the mustard herring, onion herring and the herring in roe, but a good midsummer spread usually includes even more – such as dill herring or herring in curry (You can browse our range of herring here).

We also have a variety of crispbread, rye bread and polar bread – as well as new potatoes boiled in a lot of dill. We eat the potatoes sliced up on your bread of choice with a bit of herring. With this we also serve cured or smoked salmon; seafood salad is also always included in our buffet. I like to top my salmon sandwiches with dill and mustard sauce.

In addition to the herring and fish, we often have a barbecue with different meats, spicy sausages and new-potato salad and chips with Vasterbotten cheese – lovely with a fresh dip! To drink we have lagers (beer) and aquavit. Of course, in true Swedish fashion, we have to sing some drinking songs.

Finally we’ll have a lovely strawberry cake (we have a nice recipe – click through to view) and perhaps some of our favourite sweets and chocolates. If we feel really merry we might search for a midsummer pole to do some embarrassing little frog dancing around.”

Don’t know what Frog Dancing  is? Have a look below, where the Oscar winning Swedish actress Alicia Vikander shows Jimmy Fallon how it’s done. Happy Midsummer all!

 

To read more about Swedish midsummer – click here.

To visit our Midsummer Shop for all the foods and snacks you need, click here.

 

WIN a Big Midsummer Bundle!

| Leave a comment

WIN a Big Midsummer Bundle!

Are you Swedish, or just a big fan of all things yellow and blue (this includes meatballs, herring and aquavit)? Then you might just want to win yourself our huge midsummer spread bundle!

Whether you plan on heading to the park, your balcony or snuggle up in the sofa – this bundle contains everything you need for a lovely Swedish midsummer; Our favourite sourdough crispbread, meatballs, herring, salmon, vasterbotten cheese, our own deli salads, a bottle aquavit and some yummy cinnamon buns (kanelgifflar) to round it all off. Yum!

Swedish Midsummer Picnic

To be in with a chance of winning, simply answer this super easy question:

How many flowers do you put under your pillow to dream about your future husband/wife?

A. 3
B. 10
C. 7

Send your answer by email to iloveherring@scandikitchen.co.uk before Tuesday 14th June 2016 at midday. Winner will be drawn from all correct entries.Send your answer by email to iloveherring@scandikitchen.co.uk before Tuesday 14th June 2016 at midday. Winner will be drawn from all correct entries.

The usual rules apply. UK residents only. No cheating. Only one winner. No alternative prize and no cash alternative. Over 18s only as this contains alcohol.

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