An Eventful, Midsummer-Less Midsummer

June 21, 2008

Today was the day the celebrations of one of Sweden’s most pagan rituals commerced. Midsummer is sacred to the Swedish people, not only because of the promises of half a day off and always-the-same-traditional food, but because it marks the brightest day of the year. Of course, this day it was a little off the summer solstice, but originally, it was not.

When it comes to traditional Swedish celebrations of the Midsummer rituals, foreigners get a good laugh. This is mostly regarding the Swedish people’s strange custom of dancing like leaping frogs around an abstract interpretation of male genitalia while singing strange songs. (The song associated with the frog-leaping-dance is my favourite: “Små grodorna, små grodorna, äro lustiga att se…” which translates as “The little frogs, the little frogs, they are a joy to behold…” [my translation].) It is obvious to most why this may trigger a laugh or two among those who are not used to the “Swedish way” as I have chosen to call it.

My family is not traditional – not in any sense. Of course, we enjoyed a meal of the traditional dishes, but upon having finished them, we were delighted that it would take a while for Christmas to arrive, and with it, the promise of the same dishes.

Our midsummer celebration started with dinner, a much earlier one than the ones I am used to as my grandfather was coming over to celebrate with us. Before we sat down to eat my grandfather showed us a picture which he had found at his house. It was a black-and-white picture, over 50 years old, that featured my father. Gosh, he was so cute at age 4 with a bowtie, squeezing the life out of a fat cat.

The first course consisted of pickled herring, shrimp salad, eggs, smoked salomon and shellfish. This first dish made me bloated, as pickled herring is just delicious, especially the mustard variant. Pickled herring is an intriguing phenomenon. It is basically raw herring that has been pickled and seasoned – and yet it manages to taste so good. At times it is referred to as “Swedish sushi.” It was during discourse on this topic that my father shared a story with the rest of us, one about a pair of Brits’ reaction to the Swedish way. Apparantly, the Brits had been invited to celebrate Midsummer with my father’s family, and upon having been served pickled herring and the additional shot of spirits, they said: “Is this what you are serving us? Raw fish and petroleum?” In my opinion they spoke of the truth, though the raw dish indeed is delicious (and this can be repeated many times by me!).

The second course contained roast beef, ham, potato salad, fresh potatoes, ordinary salad and for me, more pickled herring. Though, I did not take much of this course. As aforementioned, I was bloated.

The third dish was the dessert and it featured strawberries with custard and rhubarb pie with cinnamon. Following this dish was a slight feeling of despair on my part as I could not recall the last time I had been so full. Though, this feeling soon subsided and I ate some more pie as it is truly delicious.

Upon having finished the meal my grandfather left. My family is not much for social activities, not even carrying on a small conversation. His departure was followed by a few hours of idleness on my family’s part. The normal Swede is having the (drunken) time of their lives at this time of day, but as I have mentioned before, my family nor I are normal in any way.

When the clock grew closer to 11PM, my father decided that we should go water-shopping. My mother and I tagged along, for we like it when exciting things happen (you can from this make a scale on how interesting my life is, i.e. not at all). And so, we went shopping for water. Though, Midsummer is a national holiday in Sweden and all stores were closed. With no cars even on major roads and the sun setting in a cascade of fire-related colors, we felt a little as the last survivors of an atomic war. But, having circled the area for an hour we found a gasoline station which was open and that carried water. Having purchased the water and some not-so-needed crossiants we went home again.

It was now dark and muffled voices of long-lasting Midsummer parties could be heard in the distance together with faint blasts of far-away fireworks. My eldest younger sisters decided that the night was the perfect time of day to fly their model air plane during, and as I was bored, I tagged along.

We started with walking in the middle of the street and soon thereafter being followed by a police car. We jumped off the street onto the sidewalk and the police drove past us. It appeared as if we were not people they deemed interesting enough to keepi an eye on.

We soon reached the soccer field where a few teens were playing soccer. We commendeered another field and started flying the airplane. This was when the police car made its second appearance, driving us past, then reversing as it had ventured into a dead end. It was obvious that the police were not from our area.

As the police tried to reverse their way out from the narrow road a gust of upward-blowing air caught the airplane we were playing with and made it land, out of our control, on a nearby roof – someone’s roof. Of course the sister of mine to whom the airplane belongs freaked out. How would we get a hold of the plane?

As we skittered off over the soccer field and crossed the road, placing ourselves in front of the house on whose roof the airplane had landed, the police drove us past a third time. I am not sure who of us were the most surprised, but I dare guess that it was the police. As soon as they had driven past us, we ventured into the front yard of the house the airplane had landed upon.

Brainless as one can be on an adrenaline rush caused by trespassing with the police nearby on a holiday during which many are drunk and still more people are even more drunk, we did not know how to get a hold of the model airplane. Thankfully a gust of wind corrected the previous gust’s wrongdoing and sent the plane floating down off the roof. With it, we skittered across the front yard of the unsupecting house and continued to fly the plane on the soccer field.

A few minutes later the plane had run out of batteries and we went home. On the way, in the darkness of un-dark summer nights, my sisters and I managed to scare ourselves half out of our senses. We were still adrenaline-high from the adventure of the model air plane and the yellow, gleaming eyes of a black cat in the dark by the road made us jump. Even more so did it scare us as it leaped from the darkness, onto the sidewalk right beside us. We ran, screaming with joy-filled fear and stopped below a railway-bridge. Of course, the train passed us over at this very instance and we continued up the middle of the street, screaming and laughing.

Soon we reached our home. There I sat down in front of the TV and watched a few episodes of Seinfeld that I had recorded during the week. Whilst watching I wondered why my life of nothingness was not as exciting as the TV-series’ nothingness. Then, I realized, that my life is perhaps sometimes more interesting despite me not being on TV often enough.

I also managed to find a slice of bread and eat it as I was starving, despite having been bloated and almost dying a few hours ago. I enjoyed the bread that I had turned into a toast with some butter and ham. The sugar-bloated bread and the cup of non-caffeine free tea that I enjoyed with it, have made an impression on me. It is 3:00AM and I am not tired. I am high on both sugar and caffeine, and perhaps even some left-over adrenaline from earlier tonight.

Still, my untraditional Midsummer, my Midsummer-less Midsummer was quite eventful, despite me not having made a Swedish fool out of myself by dancing like a leaping frog around a Norse, pagan pole of fertility.

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