Informant was a 20 year old female who was born in Sweden and currently lives in the United States. She came to visit me.
Informant: There is a ritual, kinda like a Swedish holiday, but not really. It’s called a Swedish name that means something like midsummer. And it’s generally in June, and it’s basically welcoming summer, so you get a big big cross and you decorate it with flowers and on each arm you put circles, you hang them on the cross, it looks like the things you put on your door for Christmas. Midsummer this year is on the 24th of June. Also what you do is pluck flowers and make flower crowns that you wear for this thing. All that you really do on this day is you just like get together with people. There are different parties or you can do this cross thing with your family or you can go to a big party with everyone in your town depending on your preference and then you usually picnic over there. You have food outside, and you dance around the cross and sing different songs.
Collector: What kind of songs?
Informant: These are typical songs for midsummer, this one song is called the small frogs, literally translated. It goes like this:
Ad lustiga asia
Ad lustiga asia
A aron A aron
Svan sa hava dia
A aron A aron
Svan sa hava dia
Cua ca ca Cua ca ca
That last part is supposed to be a like a frog sound. So when they say the first part you run around the cross until the second part, and then you put your hands on your ears and make them look like cow ears, and when it says svan sa you put your hands on your butt making it look like a tail. And during cua ca ca you jump with your two feet at the same time around the cross like a frog.
Collector: Why do you like this particular piece of folklore?
Informant: I think it’s a cute tradition that you do with your family. It’s the small kids that really enjoy it, I liked it a lot when I was a kid. It’s a good time to spend with your family and friends, and have fun with them. It’s one of the biggest rituals in Sweden. And even people who go abroad like me carry it with them, and when I lived in France we used to make our own cross in our garden. It’s just like a really nice time to get together with my family and it’s just like really fun. More than celebrating summer, it’s a family thing
I think it’s interesting that two of the pieces of folklore that my Swedish friend told me involved songs with small creatures and gibberish at the end. It makes me wonder if that is a common pattern in Swedish folk songs. I think this is a cute little tradition, and although I’m not Swedish and have never done anything like Midsummer, I remember how much I used to enjoy doing similar things as a kid. I also think it’s cool that my friend carried it abroad with her, and that she still celebrated and underwent this ritual with the cross even though she was no longer in the country that celebrated it.
My friend was born in Sweden to a Swedish father and American mother, but moved to the United States as a child, so she sat down with me and told me about the different holidays that are celebrated in Sweden. Some were holidays she had celebrated frequently, while others we less important to her, but she still knew about from her family. Since midsummer includes children in the celebration, she had fond memories of past holidays in Sweden.
“Then we have midsommar, which is midsummers, it’s like the middle and it’s usually the summer solstice and that’s where it’s like the typical maypole, it’s almost like a cross with two rings and kids will have strings and dance around the maypole. And that’s also fertility”
Q: Have you celebrated this?
“I’ve done it ever since I was little. Usually it’s like the entire community gets together and there’s a central maypole for that community. So it’s not like it’s a fair, but everybody comes out and they picnic. And what the girls are supposed to do, is you’re supposed to collect seven different types of wildflowers and you make wreaths, like crowns, that you wear and you wear it all day and the girls usually wear white dresses and you’re supposed to jump over five different fences, and what you usually do is eat strawberries, strawberries and cream are like, in season, so you usually have strawberry cake and stuff like that. And you’re outside and you play games and it’s really, really fun. There’s specific songs and dances that you do while you dance around the Maypole. One of them is små grodorna, which means little frogs, and you jump over people…it’s for kids but it’s really, really cute. But when you get older, it’s like you drink and, but everybody still dresses up and it’s really pretty. But what girls are supposed to do is you put the wreath under your pillow and then you dream about the man you’re going to marry. I really remember actually making the crowns, because my mom was really good at doing it, because you have to like, braid, because they’re like wildflowers, you don’t buy something, you braid the flowers to create these really pretty things. It’s super fun and it lasts throughout the day”
On the midsummer solstice, or the Eve of St. John, fires are lit and maidens wear wreaths in their hair to celebrate the longest day of the year.
My informant first attended this festival with her family as a little girl, and mostly remembered the beautiful wreaths all of the girls would wear in their hair. She was also able to recall the many fires that were lit and that the men in attendance would jump across them. Also, those in attendance would stay out all day without sleeping to celebrate the length of the day and to appreciate the sunshine. At the end of the festival, all of the girls will throw their wreaths into the fires.
One of the most interesting aspects of this festival is that the different flowers worn in a girl’s wreath have different meanings. My informant remembers wearing white roses, which she remembers symbolized simplicity and purity. Perhaps the most significant flowers worn in the wreaths were lavender and myrtle, and they both represent love. If a girl wears one of these flowers in her wreath, throws her wreath into the fire and the burning wreath is thrown into the river and recovered by a single man, the girl would be said to be engaged to that man, by tradition. Symbolically, this union represents the birth of a new relationship, and the longer days are conducive to this birth.
This festival is uniquely Polish and has been celebrated for more than a thousand years. While mostly celebrative in the native Poland, my informant knows several Poles in other countries that also celebrate the Eve of St. John’s and she believes it’s, “because it’s romantic to look back on one’s culture.”