A Guide to Midsummer’s Eve Mini-Breaks
The summer solstice has been celebrated for centuries by many different cultures around the world. Today, the celebration is most prevalent in the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. In fact in Sweden, the Midsummar Festival is as popular as Christmas. The arrival of the summer solstice has been honored in these countries for centuries due to its connection with the short summer season and the fertility the warm weather brings.
The Midsummer’s eve celebration events in Sweden are centered on the longest day of the year, June 21, when the sun barely sets. In Sweden, midsummer’s eve celebrations occur on the Friday that falls between June 19 and June 25, when the sun barely sets. Many Swedes begin their five-week annual holiday at this time. Because of this, cities and towns are frequently nearly empty, but the surrounding countryside is bursting with travellers going to spend time with family and friends.
Some of the traditional activities Swedes enjoy during this unusual holiday include bonfires, maypoles and dancing. Homes are decorated with fresh flower garlands and wreaths. Dancers in costumes perform ring dances to traditional folk songs around the maypole that has been decorated with flowers and greenery. Bonfires lit in the evening symbolize the victory of the sun god over the gods of darkness that appear around the winter solstice, when the sun barely rises and the nights seemingly go on forever.
Residents in north-western European countries also follow a long-standing tradition of celebrating Midsummer’s eve which began in the Middle Ages. In England and Ireland, Midsummer’s Day is observed on the Friday that falls closest to June 24, the feast day of St. John the Baptist. The festivals continue for a week, featuring bonfires lit on high hills in the countryside. In Scotland, week-long festivals commemorate an epic ballad written by poet Sir Walter Scott about the magical time of Midsummer’s eve. In recent years, special access has been granted to visitors who come to Stonehenge for the summer solstice.
Ireland also gives over a week of festivity to the midsummer’s eve experience, which begins on the weekend closest to St. Johns Day. Bonfires, fireworks and fairs, such as the fair held at the Hill Tara in County Meath, are an important part of the celebration. In Ireland as well as England Midsummer’s Day itself falls on the religious holiday known as a quarter day. Quarter days were traditionally the time set aside to collect rents and hire servants.
Many of the other north-western European countries also recognize midsummer’s eve, including France, Germany and Hungary. Polish residents in particular dress in traditional folk costumes and spend the entire night of June 23 making wreaths of flowers and throwing them into the Baltic Sea, as well as local rivers and lakes.
Accommodations for travellers are often available in rental cottages or private homes. Lodging per night can usually be found in the range of 75 to 125 Euros for a typical room. Travellers who want to spend more time in one area can rent cottages or homes by the week, usually for less than 1,000 Euros per week.
Visitors wanting an unusual holidays experience/surrounding should consider a holiday including the night when the sun doesn’t set. The festivals, fairs, fireworks and bonfires all celebrate the victory of light over the long, dark days surrounding the winter solstice. Participants will find joyful residents