Celebrating Summer with 4 Scandinavian traditions we love
Scandinavian countries may be amongst some of the most technologically advanced in the world, but that doesn’t stop them from maintaining traditions that have been a staple of life for centuries. This is thanks to:
Midsommar, translated as midsummer, is observed by Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. Midsummer is the longest day of the year, and was considered a very important day in the Pagan calendar. Even the Vikings would celebrate with large bonfires to keep evil spirits at bay.
However, it’s only really properly celebrated as a bigger event in Sweden (who also happen to be the only ones to keep the name as midsommar). In Denmark and Norway, Midsommer is known as St Hans Aften (St John’s Eve).
It’s still common even today to see bonfires throughout Denmark and Norway on St Hans Aften. A witch is placed on the bonfire, and songs are sung. From around roughly the 17th century these bonfires became more common until it was a regular occurence. The early 19th century was when the witch burning tradition became commonplace.
The Swedes take midsummer a little more seriously and it's a big event that occurs between the 19th and 25th of June (whatever the closest Friday is each year). Flowers and dancing around the maypole are a normal sight. For the younger crowd, it's a good excuse to get together with friends and have a drink or four.
A typical midsummer dish is different types of pickled herring with boiled potatoes and fresh dill for a starter. This is then followed by something grilled such as salmon. For dessert, strawberries and cream are a classic.
If you fancy adding a summery twist to your own space, then why not have a look at some of our colourful posters that are perfect for the season?
National Days (Nationaldagen)
How seriously nationaldagen, which translates as “the national day”, are taken, varies from country to country. Without getting political - how much a country happens to celebrate their national day mostly hinges upon whether they were unified, occupied, or otherwise involved with other countries throughout history.
Denmark actually doesn’t celebrate it’s national day at all. In fact, it’s not even a National Day. It’s simply the day that the Danish constitution was signed all the way back in 1884. There’s no parades, no marching, and no celebrations. The most you’ll get is the day off work, but that’s about it. All in all, a rather subdued affair.
Denmark’s National Day does, however, also happen to be Fathers Day. So, if you’re a dad, then you can at least enjoy some pampering from your family.
Norway’s National Day (or rather Constitution Day) holds a bit more importance. Occuring on the 17th of May each year, this day is of particular importance to Norwegians because it happens to be the day that Norway also signed its own constitution. It but became truly independent from its Scandinavian neighbours (in 1814).
The original celebrations were swiftly cut short, however, as it wasn’t long before Norway agreed to join a union with Sweden. The king of both countries then promptly announced that any celebration of Norwegian constitution was banned.
Thankfully, the ban only lasted for a decade before celebrations resumed in full force and have been a thing ever since.
Sweden’s national day falls on the 6th of June each year. This is due to the fact that Gustav Vasa was also elected king on that day in 1523. Vasa being elected was the beginning of Sweden becoming an independent state.
The original Swedish National Day was in fact Midsummer. So much so, that it would be celebrated twice a year, at least during the 1890s. However, after the union with Norway broke down in 1905 and both countries once again became separate, the 6th of June became the de facto date.
Interestingly, however, Sweden’s National Day did not become a public holiday until quite recently back in 2005. The idea behind making the day a public holiday was that it would encourage more people to celebrate it.
Roskilde Festival has increasingly gained popularity with those outside Denmark over the last decade or so. Conceived in 1971, it is one of the largest festivals in Europe, and the largest festival in Northern Europe.
Created by two high school students and a promoter, the festival was quickly taken over the following year by the Roskilde Foundation. The foundation runs the festival as a non-profit organisation to continually develop and support music. Since 2014, it has also been possible for the participants to nominate which organisations should recieve the funds raised by the festival itself.
Roskilde Festival 2020 will the the festival’s 50th anniversary. If you fancy experiencing it for yourself, then you can find more information on the Roskilde Festival website.
Flea Markets (loppemarked)
Flea markets, possibly more familiarly known as car boot sales to our UK audience, aren’t exactly unheard of. Although the principle is the same, the format is slightly different.
Rather than trek through a slightly muddy field, instead roads are commonly closed off along high streets in different kommunes. Dates for when these flea markets (loppemarked) will be happening are made known to the residents, and people can set up stalls.
Local businesses in the area (from sports shops through to the local branches) will also participate in these, and it’s a good way for the community as a whole to really come together. Pedestrianising the high street is also a great way of getting people out and socialising. There's less emphasis on shopping in retail stores and instead connecting with each other.
Of course there's another aspect that we at Project Nord certainly appreciate about loppemarked - the fact that by buying used you can get a bargain whilst also reducing your impact on the environment and living more sustainably.
Whether you're just looking for a bit more information about Scandi traditions, or if you fancy having a go at some of these yourself whilst you're visiting Scandinavia, we hope you've enjoyed our roundup.
Written by Jack Luke Fitzsimons
Images sourced from Pinterest and Project Nord website