So Midsummer is a big deal in Sweden. As the longest day of the year draws closer, the shops start putting up big displays of sill and potatoes, adverts on TV start featuring the famous Midsummer pole and the queues in Systembolaget, the state-run alcohol shops, steadily grow longer. Not to mention, Midsummer is declared a public holiday. And as Sweden is a country whose northern regions see 24 hours of darkness in winter and whose southern regions are even covered with snow for several months of the year, the fuss around this annual celebration is pretty understandable.
However, my first Midsummer in Stockholm was very anticlimactic. I waited patiently for the street parties and open air concerts that I was sure would be held in the capital, but nothing happened. When I wandered around outside, hoping to find some sort of entertainment, most shops were shut and most people had left the city altogether. I later found out that Midsummer is a time when Swedes often retreat to the countryside for a traditional Midsummer party. So this year I was prepared: I found a friend with a country house, I bought a selection of snaps and sill and even did a quick bit of Swedish language revision in preparation for the infamous Swedish drinking songs.
The friend in question has a country house in the Stockholm archipelago—a collection of 30,000 islands about one hour’s drive from the centre of Stockholm—with quite gorgeous views over the Baltic Sea. A group of us took a boat out there and then spent Midsummer day sunbathing in the warm weather and weaving our best attempt at the traditional Midsummer wreaths made from laurel leaves and flowers.
In the early evening we had our Midsummer meal. There were a few different types of sill, (which is essentially pickled herring), knäckerbröd (a light, crispy type of bread), boiled potatoes with dill, quiche, grädfill (sour cream) and then a selection of different flavours of snaps to accompany some rather dubiously-sung Swedish drinking songs. We even managed to pick and eat some wild chives that were growing by the house.
It seems like this is a fairly typical Midsummer if you live in Stockholm: spending time with friends or family in the countryside, with the sharp taste of sill and snaps mixing on your tongue and singing songs long into the shortest night of the year. And it was well worth waiting two years for!