Midsummer is a real thing in Sweden
Motorhome tour to the Midsummer Festival in Dalarna
Author: Claudia Rothkamp, cover picture: Claudia Rothkamp
Midsummer is one of the most important holidays of the year for Swedes, especially in the Dalarna region. Many campsites also celebrate here.
For most Swedes, midsummer ranks just behind Christmas, and one of the most popular regions to celebrate midsummer is Dalarna in central Sweden. Many old traditions are still extensively celebrated here - not only on the actual midsummer weekend, but also in the following weeks. Because here the festival, which is actually celebrated in a private environment, is a - sometimes huge - public thing. Anyone traveling in Sweden with a motorhome or caravan at the end of June should not miss Midsummer in Dalarna.
Where is Dalarna located?
The Dalarna region is located in central Sweden. The province stretches over an area of 31,351 m² from the Norwegian border in the north-west through almost the entire center of Sweden to Uppland in the east. Accordingly, there is still a lot of untouched nature and a rich fauna to discover in Dalarna, only about 200 km from Stockholm, which also includes the four large domestic predators, bear, wolf, lynx and wolverine. Deep green forests and numerous crystal clear lakes shape the landscape here. Many of Dalarna's most interesting cities, villages, sights and travel destinations are also close to Lake Siljan, famous for its unique blue color. It is so light blue that Sweden even has its own shade named after it: Siljan blue.
What does Dalarna have to do with the popular red Swedish houses?
And while we're on the subject of color: what would Sweden be without its red wooden houses? And this color also comes from Dalarna. It was actually just a by-product of the Falun copper mines, with the iron oxide contained in the rock providing the coloring and the vitriol being responsible for the preservative effect - and it was inexpensive too. Copper was mined in Falun as early as the 11th century. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Falun mine was the largest copper mine in the world and, with over 1,200 miners, one of the largest jobs in Sweden. But that was once upon a time. Because the copper mines were finally shut down in 1992. Today the entire mining complex, including the working-class neighborhoods and the industrial landscape, is under the protection of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is definitely worth a longer stop on the motorhome tour.
Midsummer in Dalarna
Because of the many red wooden houses, the many lakes and the extensive nature, Dalarna is often referred to as the most Swedish of all Swedish regions. The extensive way in which midsummer is celebrated here may also have played its part. Because most Swedes celebrate midsummer in the country with family or friends, so that vacationers and tourists often do not notice much of it if they are not specifically looking for a public midsummer festival. That, in turn, is different in Dalarna. Here it could be rather difficult to avoid the midsummer festival. Because while the rest of Sweden only celebrates on the actual midsummer weekend, the party in Dalarna sometimes starts a few days beforehand and continues into July. Incidentally, the midsummer weekend is made up of midsummer evening and midsummer day in a slightly twisted order. Midsummer's day always falls on Saturday between June 20th and 26th. Midsummer Eve is the actual holiday and always falls on the Friday before Midsummer's Day. In 2020, Midsummer will be celebrated in Sweden on June 19th and 20th.
Please note: due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the public midsummer celebrations in Sweden have been canceled. This also applies to the celebrations listed below. Perhaps you save them for 2021 or simply design your own midsummer party!
What is a traditional midsummer festival?
Many Swedes start their Midsummer Festival in the afternoon on Midsummer Eve with a meal with friends or family - preferably outdoors when the weather is nice, of course. Swedish classics such as smoked salmon, various types of pickled herring as well as grilled meat, potatoes, crispbread, gravlax and, above all, strawberry-cream cake for dessert are served on the table. The adults like to supplement their food with beer and one or the other aquavit. In addition, special drinking and midsummer songs are sung. If you are self-conscious, you can also set up a small midsummer pole in the garden, which is decorated with wreaths and ribbons and serves as a focal point for group dances with the whole family. One of the midsummer classics is the children's song "Små grodorna" (Little Frogs), to which all age groups like to hop and dance around the midsummer pole. By the way, many women put a wreath of flowers - whether real or artificial - on their heads on midsummer. The latter can be bought for little money in many places in June. Of course, if you are self-conscious in Dalarna, you tie the wreath yourself. Unfortunately, it wilts quickly, but at least it is one of the ways to distinguish the real from the artificial.
Sweden's largest midsummer festival to celebrate
However, Sweden's largest midsummer festival in Dalarna is anything but private. It takes place on midsummer evening in the small town of Leksand on the Sammilsdal or "Gropen" meadow. Nobody knows exactly how many visitors it attracts each year. Most of the time the official figures are between 15,000 and 20,000, sometimes the number 25,000 is also in circulation. But one thing is certain: by Swedish standards there are an unbelievable number of people in one heap, of whom several thousand are jumping around the midsummer pole, dancing and singing "Små grodorna" at the same time as the midsummer master Anders Tull said. Whether children, teenagers, adults or seniors - everyone is there and just having fun.
Dancing together is only the end of a ceremony lasting several hours, which traditionally begins in Leksand with a procession of historic church boats. You should definitely watch them on the river. Wreaths, garlands and symbols tied by hand on the boats, with which the midsummer pole will later be decorated, are ceremoniously rowed to Leksand and carried to the festival meadow as part of a procession. The whole thing takes about two to three hours until the spectacle dissolves again. After the last official dance, the previously jam-packed festival meadow empties surprisingly quickly.
Midsummer in Leksand 2020: The procession of the church boats was supposed to start on June 19 at 7 p.m. on the Österdalälven river and reach the festival meadow at Sammilsdal around 7:45 p.m. Usually the large midsummer pole is decorated here first, before it is gradually brought into a vertical position in a joint effort by many participants. This is followed by dance performances, music and common dances for everyone. Admission is free. It is advisable to bring a seat cushion or a picnic blanket and possibly your own drinks to avoid queuing. The big midsummer festival in Leksand will not take place in 2020.
More midsummer festivals in Dalarna
In Dalarna and especially around Lake Siljan there are a number of other public midsummer festivals, e.g. B. in Mora, Rättvik or Orsa, but also in smaller villages. Some take place before the midsummer weekend, others afterwards. Freeontour has put together a selection here and we will communicate the dates for 2021 as soon as they are fixed:
canceled - Tunsta Bystuga: From 10 a.m., wreaths are tied together for the midsummer pole, from 3 p.m. there is music, the setting up of the midsummer pole and dance. Parking spaces are located below the Tunsta Bystuga.
canceled - Södertuna Bygdegård: Midsummer festival for families with music, dancing, games and a picnic (price: SEK 30). Start 3 p.m.
canceled - Tibble Bystuga: At 7.30 p.m., a midsummer pole is set up for the children at the Tibble Bystuga. Afterwards the children take part in the parade on the tractor. Around 8.30 p.m., the official midsummer pole is decorated and set up with music and dancing.
canceled - Zorns Gammelgård, Mora: Midsummer festival for children at Zorns Gammelgård. Start at 2 p.m. Free entry.
canceled - Orsa Hembygdsgård: Orsa traditional midsummer festival at Orsa Hembygdsgård. Start at 4 p.m.
A large selection of other midsummer festivals in the Siljan region can be found here.
Campsites with their own midsummer celebrations in Dalarna
Those who prefer to celebrate the midsummer festival with other campers will find campsites in Dalarna that organize midsummer festivals. Freeontour has put together a selection.
20./21. June 2019 - Mora Camping: On June 20, from 1 to 3 p.m., you can ride your bike to pick flowers and make wreaths with music and dance. On June 21, the program ranges from decorating the midsummer pole in the morning to a midsummer buffet in the restaurant in the afternoon to traditional celebrations in the evening.
20./21. June 2019 - Camping Siljansbadets Camping: On Thursday at 6 p.m., horse and cart go out into the meadows to pick flowers for the wreaths. On Friday from 11 a.m., the midsummer pole of the campsite will be decorated, set up and then celebrated.
June 22, 2019 - Rättviks Camping: At 1 p.m. they go out into the meadows by horse and cart to pick flowers for the wreaths. From 3 p.m. the midsummer pole of the campsite will be decorated, set up and then celebrated.
June 19-22, 2019 - Orsa Camping: Midsummer is anything but quiet here. The program around midsummer is aimed primarily at families with children with its own small fair on the campsite.
Please note: For many in Sweden, the main holiday season starts from midsummer. The campsites can get very crowded, especially when the weather is nice. A reservation is recommended around the midsummer weekend. Simply use the reservation request in the Freeontour campsite guide. Here you will find a list of campsites in the Dalarna region.
Video for inspiration: Midsummer at the Siljansbadets Camping
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