Midsummer Eve – Tallberg, Svealand, Sweden

The Fleeting Return of Long Summer Days and a Pagan Celebration of Nature

All of Scandinavia celebrates the Nordic festival of Midsummer (Midsommar), but perhaps nowhere as enthusiastically as in Sweden. This ancient Germanic custom honoring life itself has ancient pagan roots – a fertility rite, it was held at the exact time the sun and earth were considered at the peak of their reproductive powers.

Everyone takes to the countryside, often dressing in colorful local costumes, resuscitating old-world traditions, eating favorite foods, and imbibing substantial amounts of aquavit, resulting in folks of all ages and sorts singing and dancing. Young girls believe they will dream of their future husbands if they sleep with a freshly picked bouquet of nine different wildflowers under their pillows. But who can tell when it’s time to sleep during the long hours of the midnight sun, when even birds are confused?

One of the best places to celebrate Midsommar is in Sweden’s central rural province of Dalarna around the beautiful Lake Siljan, a hilly area often referred to as Sweden’s “folklore district.” Traditions and customs are lovingly kept alive, thanks in great part to local old-time families such as the Åkerblads.

Experience it by visiting their eponymous 15th-century red-framed farmstead, which they converted to an inn in 1910. The mix of antiques (think canopied beds and grandfather clocks) and decorative paintings and carvings found throughout enhances the old-fashioned country atmosphere for which Dalarna is famous. Don’t miss the chance to eat here: Swedes come from all parts to do just that.

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