Catherine and Graham summered up with flower crowns

We had a really wonderful time at our first Swedish midsommar. Our buddy Camilla very kindly invited us along with her family to celebrate with them. Thanks Camilla!

Camilla and I in her mom's garden

We started out at a midsummer pole raising at Camilla’s mamma’s cottage community, södrakoloni. A koloniträdgÃ¥rd gets translated to “allotment garden” in English; it is like a community garden with really big garden patches intended to give city folks a taste of country life, a place to grow some veggies, and a place to relax in the summer with the kids.   They vary in size and often have little shed or even a cottage (“stugan”).  Camilla’s mamma’s was really quite luxurious with a kitchen, living room, and bedroom with a charmingly cozy and typically Swedish atmosphere.  We enjoyed some strawberry cakes and sunshine, it was a perfect summer afternoon.

The charming koloni stugan

The midsommar pole is a great tradition, and the central square of the koloni had some lotteries, “fish for prizes”, food vendors, and a great big flower-and-leaf covered pole.  There was a dance leader who encouraged everyone to come out and sing the traditional songs and dances.  Mostly it is kids, but I joined as a big kid in and it was fun.  I think this may translate to “pole dancing” but I had to stop myself from saying it because that really means something different and I did NOT spend the weekend pole dancing.

The 'fish for prizes' booth

The next stage was a garden party with Camilla´s friends Britt-Marie and Rikard.  We had not met their family before that day, but they were very warm and welcoming and we felt really lucky to be a part of their midsommar celebrations.  We were really charmed by their daughters Stina and Ella, who showed use their pet rabbits, and their baby son Victor who sneezed and giggled and grabbed for my earrings (cute!).

Me holding Victor. By then I had taken my earrings off.

They had another midsommar pole at their house, but we got to help decorate this one with branches and flowers, then danced around it singing songs again.  (Graham even joined in this time).

Making flower crowns and decorating the midsommar pole
Making hanging rings for the midsommar pole
Making hanging rings for the midsommar pole

Putting up the midsommar pole
The final product

Then we set in on a great multi-course buffet: salads of all types, pickled herring with sour cream and chives,  cheese pie and a herring salad pie.   All served with plenty of snaps… Awesome!  Then we had a grill course cooked over the bbq, more potatoes, and more salads.  Then we had a cake buffet, with three different tasty cakes (including a very lovely one made by Jennie and Richard).  Full, but this was spread over several hours as the sun inched towards the horizon so it seemed to make sense.  The sun officially set but it never really got dark, and everyone seemed pretty alert into the evening even with the abundant liquor and snacks.

The horizon at midnight. This is the least light we had all night; after this, the sun started coming up again.

We came back to Gävle with Jennie and Richard in Camilla´s car (Thanks again Camilla!) and then biked home as the sun rose.  That makes it sound later than it was, keep in mind the sun starts coming up at 3AM!  We spent the next morning sleeping in a recovering, the sign of a great Swedish midsommar!


  1. Hi Catherine,
    I went to the Scandinavian mid-summer festival in Burnaby a few weeks ago. It was really cool – there was even a viking village! IKEA provided viking “helmets” and there were lots of arts and crafts to see. Unfortunately I missed the pole decorating and dancing but didn’t miss the awesome waffle and strawberry sauce they were selling in one of the tents. Do you know why there are 2 rings on the mid-summer pole? I’m looking forward to the getting out there in the fall…

    🙂 Andrea

  2. I love absolutely everything about this post. Maybe the best part is seeing you two (okay, especially Graham) in flower/leaf crowns. That’s pretty great.

    And it seems perfectly natural that Catherine would participate with the kids – why do adults shake off all the fun stuff? I bet you showed them how to make even better, more creative, prettier rings for the midsommarpole.

    That scene of the sunset (at midnight?) was lovely, and picturing the two of you biking home in the sunrise? Very Euro. And i am thrilled for you that you have such a warm collection of friends there. That is surely a tribute to the lovely people YOU are as well. Happy Summer to you!

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