What is Midsummer? History of Midsummer, Activities and Facts

Midsummer is celebrated on June 24 and is a day destined to appreciate all the gifts that nature offers us.

The summer solstice marks the longest day of the year and arrives on June 20, but because the old Julian calendar marked it differently, the date for St. John’s Day remains June 24. The holiday originates from Sweden, but is celebrated worldwide and many use the closest weekend to date for traditional festivities.

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History of Midsummer

Midsummer began as a pagan fertility ritual and a successful harvest during the Stone Age. The pagans believed that the plants had healing properties during the summer solstice and honored the day by reverenting nature with rituals. They danced around maypoles, fashionable garnets, and the herbs were gathered on St. John’s Eve and bonfires were used to ward off evil spirits. Spirits were said to be free to roam the earth when the sun turned toward the southern hemisphere.

What is Midsummer? History of Midsummer, Activities and Facts

In the 4th century, the holiday was changed to accommodate Christian beliefs honoring Saint John the Baptist called Saint John’s Day. In the Gospel of Luke, it is said that Saint John’s birthday was six months before the birth of Jesus, which would put his birthday in June. It was celebrated by bathing in water the night before for purification, a feast, and prayer on vacation, but despite the name change, some of the Midsummer customs remained.

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In the Middle Ages, Germany had its own summer rituals that would eventually be adopted by Sweden and others. Germanic Neopagans called their summer solstice festival Litha. In his rituals, the Maypole was decorated with leaves and raised on May 1, which is where the name comes from. It was difficult to find green leaves during that time, and the holidays moved to midsummer.

Today, it is still a celebrated holiday and it is incredibly popular. In Sweden, Christmas comes second and people travel from all over the world to experience it for themselves. During the summer solstice season, the people of the British Isles and Scandinavia have almost a full day of sunlight, making it easy for them to imagine how the pagans lived and recreate the traditions of yesteryear.

Midsummer Timeline

21st century: the past is present
People celebrate the old day by dancing, eating, bonfires, and festivals.

5th century – German Remix
Germany celebrates with personalized rituals such as Mayos decorated with leaves.

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4th century – Renowned
Midsummer is co-opted by Christianity and is called Saint John’s Day.

8700 B.C. – Ancient origins
Pagans celebrate festivities and rituals in honor of nature, fertility, and a successful harvest.

What is Midsummer? History of Midsummer, Activities and Facts

Summer FAQ

Why is it called Midsummer
The summer solstice is considered to be “mid-summer” because it is believed to be the longest day of the year.

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What is the Swedish summer?
Sweden’s “Midsommar” is a summer celebration that many Scandinavian countries look forward to after their long, dark winters.

How do you celebrate summer?
Midsummer is generally celebrated with a traditional feast, incense, a bonfire, maypoles, and connection to nature.

SUMMER ACTIVITIES

Midsommar
Visit Sweden and experience Midsommar where pagans once did. Travel to the countryside where you can attend festivities, make flower garlands, drink traditional drinks like the nubbe, and dance around maypoles. You can also learn first hand the ancient history of Swedes who know what they are talking about.

Eat like pagans
Celebrate the day by preparing traditional meals. Pagans would eat foods consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden in a variety of dishes honoring their deities. Use recipes for pickled herring for windowsill, potatoes for potatis, cured salmon for gravlax, crispbread for Knäckebröd, and more. If they are too complicated, simple salads and vegetables will work well.

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Nature walk
Experience nature in a new way by hiking alone or with friends. Midsummer is all about connecting with nature, so explore a new trail you’ve never traveled before and really take a look at your surroundings. Pay attention to all the different trees and flowers and appreciate the wonder of nature.

What is Midsummer? History of Midsummer, Activities and Facts

FIVE FACTS ABOUT SUMMER

Empty cities
During the summer, the cities are practically empty when the residents go to the countryside.

Sweet Dreams
There is a tradition in which people choose seven different species of flowers and place them under their pillows to dream about their future spouse.

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Folklore
Many people wear a traditional traditional dress called folkdrekten and make their own flower wreaths called krans.

Feel the spirit
People drink a spirit called aquavit that is distilled from potatoes or grains and seasoned with caraway or dill seeds.

Jumping crazy
There are songs sung about frogs and people jump around the Maypole like they are frogs.

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