Summer may seem to be dragging its heels, but Scandinavians are gearing up to celebrate the season’s official middle marker.
This year’s Midsummer celebrations aren’t falling solely on the summer solstice but will take place over the course of two weekends. That’s partly because, despite the state’s overwhelming Scandinaiety (we are both the nation’s most Swedish and most Norwegian state), there are only so many authentic entertainers to go around.
“We’ve traditionally done it the week before because there’s lot of crossover interest with performers and attendees,” said Laura Cederberg of the American Swedish Institute, which will host festivities on Saturday. “There’s sort of an informal agreement with the other organizations.”
Bottom line: More maypoles.
Midsummer — or Midsommar or Midtsommer — is the day after the summer solstice on June 21, the longest day of the year. (Yes, after this, the days begin growing shorter. Don’t kill the messenger.) The day is said to be endowed with mystical powers, mostly revolving around the idea of sunlight vanquishing the darkness. One pagan ritual involved a wheel or huge ball of straw being ignited and rolled down a hill into a river. Massive bonfires still crackle under the stars.
In Sweden, where Midsommar is a big deal, sleeping with flowers beneath your pillow may reveal your future spouse. In Icelandic folklore, cows speak in the night.
Midsummer actually is celebrated in cultures beyond the Scandinavian countries, yet those are the heritages most noted in Minnesota.
Perhaps one of the most traditional fests is the Gammelgården Museum’s Midsommar Dag Celebration June 22 in Scandia, given that it’s set in a replica of an old Swedish farm. (www.gammelgardenmuseum.org) People in traditional garb will raise the beribboned majstång around which they will dance and sing, the better to work off the smörgåsbord.
Norwegians, whose celebrations generally are less (cough) showy than the Swedes’ festivities, will have their Midtsommer gathering June 20 at the Interlachen Country Club in Edina, where the Norway House will call upon the “going Viking” spirit by honoring several individuals of Norse heritage for their community accomplishments. (www.norwayhouse.org)
The Danish American Center goes old-school on June 22 with a potluck, hayrides, barn dance and bonfire at a suburban farm. (www.danebo.org)
Across Minnesota, other celebrations will commence, notably those in North Branch and Park Rapids. But the farfar of them all is on the lawn of the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. (www.asi.org) It’s considered the largest Midsummer in Minnesota, Cederberg said, with 3,000 attending last year. This year, the festival is in conjunction with the opening of the ASI’s summer exhibition of glass art from Sweden called “Pull, Twist, Blow: Transforming the Kingdom of Crystal.” Expert glass blowers will be on hand, giving demonstrations of their craft.
Diners may savor pickled herring, boiled new potatoes with dill, and strawberries.
Which brings us to the likely resource for anyone opting to throw their own Midsummer bash. Ingebretson’s Scandinavian Gifts, 1601 E. Lake St. in Minneapolis, stocks all manner of Nordic foods. “It’s a big herring time,” said manager Julie Ingebretson. “It’s mostly about food, but we’ll sell little maypoles and napkins.”
(Personally, we like the deep blue Map Bowls molded in the form of Sweden, meaning that they’re long and rather misshapen.)
Ah, there is one more destination that will be celebrating: Ikea, “the life improvement store,” will have its annual all-you-can-eat Midsommar smörgåsbord starting at 4 p.m. Friday. Seatings are on the half-hour until 7:30. For details, see http://bit.ly/mbldBi.
Kim Ode • 612-673-7185