Like most Swedes, Midsummer—the annual June start-of-summer celebration—is by far my favorite holiday. I have fond memories of wearing a floral garland, dancing around the maypole, singing små grodorna (Swedish for "the little frogs"), avoiding the pickled herring, and heading straight for the freshly-picked strawberries.
Back in the early days, the Swedish Midsummer was celebrated to welcome long days of sunlight and the season of fertility. Today, the holiday marks the start of summer and takes place on or around the solstice, the longest day of the year (get ready: this year, it's Saturday, June 21). Midsummer calls for an escape to the countryside, where family and friends gather to eat, drink, and dance. Swedes go to great lengths to make it the party-of-the-year. To throw your own Midsummer bash, here are the tabletop staples:
Above: Swedes keep the table setting simple and natural for Midsummer—a linen tablecloth, white dinner plates, and just-snipped flowers and greenery.
Above: The simple Natural Linen Tablecloth by Fog Linen comes in three sizes starting at $64 from the Fog Linen shop.
Above: A Scandinavian classic designed in 1952 by Kaj Franck, Teema Dinnerware by Iittala comes in six colors, including white. The pieces are sold individually; dinner plates are $26 at Unica Home. In today's Object Lesson, Megan explains the story behind Franck's design. For more tableware, see 10 Easy Pieces: Basic White Dinnerware.
Above: Chilled aquavit and nubbe, Swedish schnapps, are the drinks of choice for Midsummer. Refills are frequent and hearty toasts are punctuated with bouts of traditional schnapps songs. Swedes often make homemade schnapps infused with berries and herbs.
Above: Handblown SOS Schnapps Glasses by Swedish company Sagaform; $20 for a set of four from Huset.
Above: Spice your own schnapps using a Korken Bottle; $3.99 from Ikea.
Above: The Midsummer feast include various kinds of pickled herring (sill in Swedish)—a must-serve dish if not always a favorite among the children. Photograph via Ikea Livet Hemma.
Above: The tasty new potato (färsk or ny potatis in Swedish), harvested prior to full maturity and sold immediately, is another Midsummer dish. A light scrub removes any dirt and the potatoes are cooked whole with their skin on. Traditionally served with fresh dill, chives, and sour cream, they're shown here in a new twist, created by blogger Skye McAlpine, with parsley, lemon, and the coastal green samphire. Photograph From My Dining Table—go to the site for the recipe.
Above: The Iris Hantverk Pan and Vegetable Brush works well as a potato scrubber; $27 from Fjorn Scandinavian. And if you're looking for additional brushes, see 10 Easy Pieces Vegetable Brushes on Gardenista. Photograph via Tea and Kettle.
Above: The first strawberries of the season are the classic dessert for the Midsummer smörgåsbord. Swedes take their strawberries seriously: every year we worry about the frost ruining the berry harvest and avidly follow the news predictions leading up to the holiday. We pay a premium price for our strawberries, and many families pick their own. Photograph via Bogart Loves Blog.
Above: Sometimes the Midsummer host makes a strawberry cake. An inviting way to serve it would be in this simple glass Pedestal Cake Stand, made in the US and currently on sale for $34.95 from Terrain.
Above: The celebration begins with flower picking for the maypole and garlands. The tall, cross-shaped wooden post is dressed in leaves and flowers, and is the central symbol of the celebration. Children and adults alike dance around the pole to traditional Swedish songs. The children and women usually wear flower garlands and some people dress-up in traditional folk costumes. Photograph via Sveaborg Society.
Above: On Gardenista, Erin shows us how to make a Midsummer Garland. Photograph by James Casey.