The sun peeps through the clouds and the music is playing. The master of ceremony shouts out his orders and on three the men push and move forward. Slowly, slowly the pole rises toward the sky. People cheer, the violins sing cheerfully. The place is Lumparland and the whole municipality and some visitors have gathered to celebrate one of the highlights of the year – Midsummer.
This is the fourth year in a row that we spend the Midsummer weekend in the Åland Islands. We pack a car with food and other utensils and make it to a cottage in the woods, by the sea. There is no electricity and no running water there, just silence. And a grill and a sauna. It’s a time for friends and family. This year was special for us, as it was Little A’s first Midsummer. She won’t remember much but we and her both sets of grandparents will fondly look back at this weekend.
In Finland and Sweden, the Midsummer weekend extends from Friday to Sunday. Friday is a public holiday. This is when many start their summer holidays. People like to celebrate outdoors; in the garden, at a cottage or in the archipelago. The might weather gods usually take the chance to show their ironic character by giving the people rain and gray skies. Or at least cold winds.
Midsummer Eve: Dancing Around the Pole
We had agreed to meet at the pole at 2 p.m.at Furuborg. The local youth organization served traditional Åland pancake and coffee. An hour later it was time to slowly walk to the pole on the other side of the road. to raise the maypole or midsummer pole. The one in Lumparland was richly decorated with leaves and colorful crowns. There are some other decorations on the pole as well, symbolizing fertility. Before raising the pole, the band and some ladies and gentlemen in traditional clothes marched in. The ladies carried the traditional crowns that are always attached to the pole. Scroll down to the end of this post to see a video from the event.
Once the pole was up, it was time to sing the Åland anthem and dance around the pole. We didn’t do any of the dancing. However, we did bump into my brother and his girlfriend. Their daughter was dancing around the pole and she seemed to be enjoying herself very much. Maybe Little A will join in a couple of years from now.
Actually, I was quite impressed with the organization of the festivities. It was obvious that both old and young participated. The truth is that many old traditions seem to be dying out, due to a lack of resources or interest. Last year there was no pole in Lumparland.
As the weather was quite OK, it was sunny and the wind was not too chilly, we decided to walk halfway to the cottage. Little A happily slept in her pram and Trixie the Dog explored the surroundings. There were hardly any cars on the roads and the world was very green and peaceful on that day.
We were back at the cottage at around 5 p.m. This is where the fun begins, with food and sauna.
Midsummer: a Delight for Foodies
Midsummer is very much about food. At least for us. There is hardly any space on the table when it’s covered with grilled meat, sausages, fish, potatoes, salads, herring, and so on and so on. We mix Finnish and Swedish dishes on our menu. I personally enjoy the fish the most. That includes pickled herring (yummy!) as well as smoked salmon. This year we were treated to freshly smoked salmon as well as deer. On occasions like this, I’m happy that I’m not a vegetarian. Jesper’s mother also makes the best potato salad ever.
After dinner, it’s time for a truly Finnish tradition – the sauna. In true Finnish style, we used a birch whisk in order to get some well-deserved relaxation. Basically, it’s a type of massage whose benefits include relieving muscle pain, cleansing the skin, getting better blood circulation or helping to recover from flu and cold.
Our Midsummer Menu
- Boiled potatoes
- A few different types of pickled herring – some homemade and some from the shop
- Smoked salmon
- Grilled meat: sausages, ribs, pork, and deer
- Potato salad
All dairy-lovers unite over a piece of cake! This zesty thing contained quark (normal and with lemon taste), cream, and sour cream (crème fraîche). Add to that white chocolate and you no longer feel like counting the calories. However, the berries on top were also delicious!
- Aqvavit (flavored spirit)
- Sparkling water
- Alcohol-free sparkling wine
In summary, I’d say that we had a good midsummer – soon we can start planning the next one…
Read about our previous midsummer celebrations here >>