The Swedish tourism site describes Midsummer (Midsommar) as:
The successful midsummer never-ending lunch party formula involves flowers in your hair, dancing around a pole, singing songs while drinking unsweetened, flavoured schnapps. And downing a whole load of pickled herring served with delightful new potatoes, chives and sour cream. All in all, a grand day out.Visit Sweden
In England, thousands usually gather at Stonehenge to watch the sun rise and align with the famous stones.
In Scotland, there was longstanding traditions of midsummer fires until the 18th century before Christianity shifted the celebration to St. John’s Day.
In America, there isn’t much fanfare. At least no where that I have lived. There’s the attention that the summer season has begun and often the last of schools have closed for the summer break, but there are very few rituals. For those who do find celebration, it’s often based on their heritage from outside of the U.S. or religion.
While I was raised Roman Catholic and many of the Catholic holidays are still observed in our household as I attempt to teach my son to have an understanding of what the religion that the majority of his relatives and ancestors followed, I have also wanted to introduce my son to other celebrations.
In my heart, it’s selfish more than anything. I want to create a memorable time, a tradition for our family, that my son grows to look forward to each year and hopefully reminisces of when he is older. So for each change of season, there will be a celebration, and for the start of summer we’ll celebrate the summer solstice, midsummer, midsommar, each year.
Last year, the start of summer was a blur as we packed our final items, loaded them into a truck, and moved north to the Finger Lakes of New York. It seemed the summer heat of the DC Metro area followed us north and high temperatures and humidity descended upon our new home as soon as we got all of our boxes inside.
What day was midsummer, what were we doing? I honestly can’t recall, but it was some mixture of sweat and cardboard boxes and exhaustion.
So this year, I felt it was of our best interest to begin our tradition and tailor it each year as we find necessary. But how do you celebrate midsummer when you have a one year old whose bedtime is at 8 and you are in the center of a pandemic? We couldn’t go to the various lookouts to watch the sun set–that was long past Ryland’s bedtime. We couldn’t have a bonfire like I envision doing someday–we live in an apartment complex where we absolutely cannot have anything sitting outside. There were no may poles to be made, no stone circles to stand about, and I still have a busy toddler to take care of during the day so I couldn’t stay up all night to enjoy the shortest night to see the sun rise.
We were lucky. The strawberry harvest had just begun in our region and the weekend prior we picked many of the jewel-colored fruits and fought off the urge to devour every last one of them each time we opened the fridge and caught their sweet scent. The Swedes enjoy strawberries during midsummer and it seemed perfect for us to do the same. Not only due to my heritage, but because it felt only right to celebrate by feasting on fresh fruit that was harvested just days before.
Our midsummer day approached and with it summer-like weather. Heat, humidity, and then storms. I gathered my supplies and busily prepared what I could whenever Ryland was asleep. The meal turned into an indoor picnic as it poured rain during the evening hours.
I set up our table, decorating it with flowers and picked strawberries, and plated all our meal options. With the strawberries soaking in sugar for hours and creating a sweet juice ready to go, I put together shortcakes baked in a muffin tin and homemade whipped cream.
Platting everything, we sat down with candles giving off a cheery glow and listened to the rain fall. Our meals before us, we stuffed ourselves with strawberry shortcake, bread, and goat cheese, plus the assortment of other items I put out.
After dinner, I performed repetitive sun salutations as the storms moved away and the sun broke through the clouds. We watched the sun set, long after our little one went to sleep, and talked of future solstices. Of bonfires, s’mores, and staying up far too late, but we love the idea and I can’t wait to perfect these new traditions for our family to celebrate the entrance of summer.