Midsummer’s eve is once again upon us, this Friday. For many Swedes this is one of the big holidays, and a time for celebration and feasting amongst family and or friends.
I’ll spend this midsummer in the small community Långban, in Värmland. Långban is a small mining community. The mining probably started as early as during the Middle Ages (1050-1520 AD). During the the 18th century mining started in a more industrial form that was more or less shut down in 1933. Today there is a museum in the historic buildings from the mining days, well worth a visit. From the beginning the mining foremost concerned iron ore but in the second half of the 1800’s they also began to mine manganese and dolomite. Lesser mining was done during the mid1950s until the latest closure of the mine in 1972 for dolomite.
Not only the museum is interesting, the small community Lesjöfors, a few km north of Långban is also interesting as well as it is somewhat of a ghost town. It’s not abandoned but several houses are empty as well as industrial building from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s that stand as hollow reminders of what once was.
Back to the midsummer tradition – me I’ll celebrate with my finance, her sister and her husband and thier children and possibly her parents in a small croft not far from the mining area. For most this weekend is about two things: food (pickled herring, fresh potatoes, schnapps and beer) and meating family and or friends. For me, who do not eat pickled herring, it becomes instead grilled meat and good wine and some schnapps. As tradition bids a midsummer pole will be made; a pole, or rather a cross, dressed in flowers and leaves, around which ring dances are preformed, prefrebly by children with garlands of flowers on thier heads. This really isn’t, and never was, my thing – but the children, at least some, loves it, or are more or less forced to be part of it – and so the traditions lives on.
The midsummer festival has pre-Christian roots and is celebrated at the summer solstice, the tradition has evolved over time; the Christian Church chose to celebrate John the Baptist’s birth at the same time and today it is as previously said more about food and meeting family or friends. The oldest surviving Scandinavian scriptures concerning the midsummer celebration are the Icelandic and Norse sagas, dating to at least the 13th century, where it is stated that Olav Trygvason abolished the sacrificial beer and celebrated with the people at Christmas, Easter, Midsummer and at Michael’s mass.
I’ll post some pictures and notes of our celebration during and after midsummer’s eve.
All in all happy midsummer where ever you are!