“The One Day We Act Uncivilized”: Swedish Midsommar 2018

That’s a direct quote from the local I was lucky enough to dance with during the weekend’s Midsommar (Midsummer) celebrations. He didn’t stop dancing (or laughing) for the entire 75 minutes. I’m convinced I burned more calories laughing from his translations of the traditional Swedish dances than I did from actually taking part in the dances.

A diorama of Skansen, the outdoor museum where the Midsommar celebration was held!

When I originally decided to study with DIS this summer, I had no idea my study abroad would overlap with the Summer Solstice. To be honest, I’m not even sure I knew when the Summer Solstice was before coming to study in Stockholm. From day one of my arrival, everyone seemed to be making plans for the Midsommar weekend. Whether it was going to Skansen (the outdoor museum), hiking for a great view of the city, or trying to make a Swedish best friend who would invite them to their summer house for the weekend, everyone had a plan. Well, everyone except me.

It wasn’t until I came across a Facebook post on the DIS Summer: Stockholm page that I had plans! (Thanks Facebook for always being my go-to best friend!) Someone from DIS posted that they were looking for people to participate in Midsommar on Fjäderholmarna, one of Stockholm’s archipelagos. At this time, I still didn’t know what or when Midsommar was, but I knew I couldn’t pass up a free trip to an island. I mean, come on…FREE TRIP TO AN ISLAND. I commented as quickly as I possibly could and continuously checked my notifications every hour to see if I’d been selected.

I know, I know. The anticipation is probably killing you by this point: “Come on, Janet. Did you get to go or not? I’m trying to decide if I should keep reading this post in the first place!!”

Well, ladies and gentleman. I WON.

 (To be honest, it wasn’t really a contest but I’m going to continue saying that I won so it makes it a bigger deal than it actually was…)

So, when Midsommar finally came around I could barely hold back my anticipation! I was planning to celebrate in the sun all day. (Well, not literally all day since the sun rises at 3:30 a.m. but, you get the point.)  These plans were harshly ruined, however, by the lovely 48 degrees rainy weather. No joking, this was the first day in five weeks that I’d worn long pants, long sleeves, and a jacket. I know I’m from the South, but still…it was cold. 

Oh, and the rain/cold/basically snow, canceled our island trip and relocated our DIS celebrations to the outdoor museum, Skansen.

Even though the island part wasn’t happening anymore, I still knew this was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. I braved the weather and made my way to Skansen to meet up with the others! My fingers might have been purple, but I was excited!

We entered the museum around 10:30 and the celebrations began immediately! We made flower crowns (more like tree crowns) with some guidance from the local Swedish women and tried some traditional Swedish meats, crackers, and jams! The free food definitely helped increase my mood for the day.


After exploring the museum for a few hours (with special attention on the Swedish animals!) we headed for a traditional Swedish lunch, in a building with heat! I ordered a cheese sandwich, pastry, and a warm macchiato! (Side note for my family: This was not a grilled cheese, it was just cold cheese. So there! You can’t laugh at me for ordering grilled cheese in Stockholm.) Everything was delicious, as nearly all the food in Stockholm has been, and we devoured it in less than 10 minutes. Well, my plate at least.


Following our meal, it was finally time for the raising of the Maypole! Traditionally, the Maypole is raised on Midsommar’s Eve and is decorated with greenery as a sign of good fortune and health to people and livestock. We were able to help raise the Maypole by yelling something along the lines of “Oh hey!”, which I’m certain translates into something much more meaningful in Swedish. But for me, it was just a chance to shout funny words at the top of my lungs and pretend like I belong!

We continued this back-and-forth yelling for around 15 minutes until finally the Maypole was successfully raised!! Everyone joined together in cheering and the dancing began right away! I rushed straight to the middle to make sure I was in an optimal position to learn the dances and make a huge fool of myself.


This experience was something I will never, ever forget. I’ll probably never understand the logic behind the dances. I think it’s best that way. Hopping around like a frog, making barking noises, and swinging my hands like an elephant nose – honestly, those are all probably better left unexplained.

Starting out from not even knowing the holiday existed, to celebrating in true Swedish fashion was incredible and I’m so grateful I was able to experience this holiday during my study abroad experience!

Happy Midsommar!!

To the Swedish man who I got to dance next to: Thank you for making my time in Sweden so memorable. Your translations, dancing, and laughter were incredibly contagious and definitely made this celebration something I will remember for a lifetime.



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