21 June 2006

Getting ready for Midsummer

Midsommar afton, (Midsummer Eve) the date when Swedes celebrate Midsummer, is this Friday, June 23rd. I'm having a party to celebrate it on Saturday, since that works better into my life/schedule. Midsummer is one of Sweden's biggest holidays, perhaps only Christmas (also celebrated on the "Eve") is bigger. When I was an exchange student, we took folding chairs to the lake that lies near Kungsör and sat on the shore and watched the whole lack-of a sunset. While the picture below isn't EXACTLY where we were, it is close. Gives you an idea of what my environment there was like.




This is really hard to describe if you've never seen the phenomenon, so please forgive me while I explain some basic (very basic) planetary science. Here in Oh-hi-ia, the latitude lines that run through the state are numbered 40-41. Where I lived in Sweden, the latitude is 59.4167. The Artic Circle is at 66. Anchorage, Alaska is 61, so where I was in Sweden is pretty far north, y'all. And the axial tilt of the earth at that latitude is such that during Midsummer, the sun does not rise in the east and set in the west. It kind of makes a circle around the sky, dips down towards the horizon, and comes right back up. It is amazing, and I feel really lucky to have witnessed it. If you've ever heard someone talk about "The Midnight Sun", that's what it is!

Swedes generally gather at the lake or seashore, have family picnics, drink vodka, dress up in their national costumes and dance around the maypole for a midsummer celebration. It is a leftover from pagan rites, and the missionaries who converted the Vikings just folded it right into the Christian calendar, conveniently taking the birthday of John the Baptist, which falls on the summer solstice. Bonfires are also traditional, but my homeowner's association might frown on that, so we'll be skipping it here in Oh-hi-ia. I’m not erecting a maypole for the same reason, sorry.

It is difficult for me to find a comparable holiday in the American calendar, but if I was pushed, I'd have to say that it is a bit like the 4th of July. But Midsummer isn't a celebration of independence like the 4th. Swedes do have a national day, June 6th, I think. But not the same thing at all. And I don't remember fireworks on Midsummer, but there might have been.

Traditional Midsummer foods are sill (pickled herring) new potatoes with dill, strawberries and cream, always always knäckebröd (a crisp bread that looks like big crackers). Personally, I don't care for sill, so I didn't buy any. I did buy some Gravlax, though.

I'll be serving
Lingonberry Mousse
-Lingonberries taste like cranberries, but better. They're yummy.
Swedish Meatballs
-my DH informs me that I'm not allowed to have a Swedish-themed party without them.
Blueberry Soup
-Not a traditional Midsummer thing, but definitely Swedish. I like it; I'm encouraging everyone to give it a taste by serving it in shot glasses.
Bratwurst
-OK, not Swedish at all, but a summer thing for me personally. I boil the brats in beer with onions, garlic, and cracked black peppercorns. Then I grill the brats. I strain the onions out of the beer and fry the onions with a stick of butter. Serve brats with onions, with or without a bun. Gooooood.
Potatoes with Dill
-I'm hopeful that I'll be able to find some "new" potatoes, but it isn't likely.
Gravlax
-I only bought a really small amount of this b/c I think I might be the only person who will eat it. Smoked salmon, and it is yummy.
Knäckebröd
-of course. About 6 different kinds
Strawberries and Cream
-I'm thinking no explanation needed there.
Vanilla ice cream with Cloudberry Preserves
-Cloudberries look like little orange raspberries and are delish served warm over ice cream.

You're only invited if you know me IRL...but if you didn't get an Evite invitation and want one, let me know. Cheers!

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