Nationality: United States of America
Occupation: Relationship Banker, Chase Bank
Residence: Laguna Niguel, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/2021
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Swedish
The following conversation is transcribed from a conversation between me (HS) and my co-worker/informant (SC).
HS: So what is one of your favorite customs that you and your family participated in while you were in Sweden?
SC: So in midsummer, we have this tradition that we do at home, lots of partying drinking, food, all that. But what makes it unique is that we do all of that around this thing called a maypole. It’s like this giant cross, pole, weird-looking thing that is covered with green vines, roses, flowers, and stuff. It’s massive and it has these circles on the pole, too. You can look it up it’s really cool. They also call it the Mayflower pole or midsummer pole. It’s basically celebrating the arrival of the summer season. Because Sweden is further north and it’s dark up until the summer the arrival of summer is a huge deal because it’s actually light out again.
My informant is a co-worker from my job. He is a Relationship Banker, and so we work a lot less closely than my other co-workers on the teller line. Regardless, he is a great guy and we enjoy a little office rivalry- he went to UCLA. Yuck. His parents immigrated to the United States from Sweden, but because he still has a lot of family living there, he visits a lot and in the process has brought back a lot of Swedish traditions to his family here in the United States.
We had gotten all of the pre-opening work done that we needed to get done, and it just so happened that our Branch Manager brought in some Dunkin Donuts to rally the morale of the troops. And so my co-worker and I sit there, grubbing some glazed donuts, going about the usual surface-level conversation. The typical weekend updates, customer complaints, all the good stuff. I decided to shift the conversation to talk about a tradition that my family and I had done the past weekend and asked if he had any that he did with his family. He was delighted to hear the question and started elaborating immediately.
While I’m sure there are nuanced aspects of the Swedish maypole that weren’t elaborated upon in the transcription, the tradition that was described is popular throughout much of Western Europe, primarily in Germanic countries. It is important to note, though, that I think the festival would carry a lot more significance in further North countries, as my informant touched on, because of the lifestyle changes associated with the arrival of summer. The sun starts to come out much more frequently during the summer months, and the fact that the Swedish maypole festival marks that, in my opinion, carries special significance.
If you happen to be interested in learning a maypole dance and have an even number of participants that are also interested, please refer to:
Williams-Lundgren, Gertrude. A Simple Maypole Dance for Any Even Number, by Gertrude Williams-Lundgren. 1922.