One of the things I learnt about Swedish people in the three years that I lived there, is that they really know how to really enjoy the summertime.
In a country that is cold and dark for much of the year, celebrating the sun is of the utmost importance. So come June, tens of thousands of Swedes abandon towns and cities and head to the coastal islands, inland lakes, vast boreal forests and glaciated mountains, for weeks of rest and relaxation.
And it is not uncommon to find everything shut down for an entire month, usually in July, while everybody takes their “industerial vactation”.
But it is not just the relaxing, it is the celebrations that come with summer which, like the summer daylight hours in Sweden, seem neverending.
The celebrations start with Valborg (Walpurgis Night) on April 30th, where everybody gathers outside to ignite hazardously large bonfires, sing songs and greet Spring.
And people can really let their hair down as the following day is a public holiday, May Day, celebrated by the Swedish labour movement with demonstrations and political speeches. Since Ascension Day, occurs on a Thursday, the subsequent Friday is known as klämdag, “squeezed day”, and is taken off from work by many Swedish people. Next comes Swedish National Day on June 6th, also known as the Day of the Swedish Flag.
The most important event for the Swedish calendar is Midsummer (or midsommar). Pickled herring, boiled new potatoes with fresh dill, soured cream and chives, salmon and the first strawberries for the summer for dessert all washed down with brännvin. After eating all this, if you are up to it, there is dancing round the maypole and yet more singing (and drinking too).
Kräftpremiär is a crayfish party, held in early August, and is the last of the traditional summertime festivals.
A month off work, fantastic fresh food, wild swimming, lazing around in the sun and all-day (and sometimes all-night) parties… I think I may be on the next flight back – Hej då.