Midsummer Celebration in Sweden

After two years of COVID restrictions, sailors at the Royal Swedish Yacht Club (KSSS) were looking forward to the traditional midsummer celebration once again. As has been done for decades, the celebration took place at KSSS’s own island, Lökholmen, located next to KSSS summer sailing centre Sandhamn about 30 nm from Stockholm. Lökholmen is also the centre for the weekly youth summer camps which hosts about 300 participants each year.

The midsummer holiday is celebrated on the Friday and Saturday closest to the summer solstice, this year commencing on Friday, June 24. Midsummer Eve is one of Sweden’s most traditional holidays – for many, perhaps only second to Christmas, it is the most important holiday of the year. It is such an important tradition that some are even of the opinion that Midsummer Eve should be the Swedish national day. The midsummer night is believed to be full of magical powers and supernatural beings.  An old tradition still practiced in modern times is to pick seven different kinds of flowers and put them under one’s pillow before sleep; it is said that you will then dream of the one you are going to marry. However, one should take the dream cautiously as this may not be too reliable in these modern times.

If Christmas is primarily a family holiday, midsummer is celebrated with large circles of friends and often in completely different networks. For many, including us sailors, midsummer also marks the beginning of the summer vacation season.

This year’s event began, as it usually does, early in the morning. The weather was fantastic, with a clear sky and temperatures around 28 degrees Celsius. The water temperature was above 20 and gave a good start for the early morning swim, or, in some cases, the midnight swim before going to bed. The boats were decorated with the typical birch twigs and with their signal stand flags hoisted. Children with their parents picked flowers to decorate the midsummer pole and the joint lunch table was prepared. At 1:00pm the joint lunch began at long tables on the dock in the member harbour, and more than 110 persons feasted together. KSSS port staff opened the lunch with a speech with presentations of the staff members, along with a resounding sing-along.

The shared lunch featured a national midsummer buffet consisting of the classic menu: a selection of different herrings, sour cream, chives, cheese, butter, crispbread, pickled and smoked salmon, new potatoes, fresh strawberries, a midsummer cake with strawberries, and of course beer and ice-cold Nordic schnaps. The schnaps were celebrated with the singing of well-known schnaps songs. The day ended with a barbecue in the evening with traditional accordion and guitar music. Many likely had a difficult Saturday morning. But despite the celebratory feast, the most important part of the midsummer celebration for KSSS members is the time spent with friends and family – sharing in the Midsummer Eve lunch together, making a midsummer wreath with seasonal wildflowers, dancing around the midsummer pole and playing midsummer games with your children.

We are all already looking forward to next year’s gathering at Lökholmen, just 11 months away!