Today is Midsummer’s Eve, the number one day for Swedes living abroad to get mopey and homesick and the number one day for Swedes in the motherland to consume traditional food and drink, dance around the maypole, and stay up late, late in the never-ending light.
Midsummer of course has its roots in the pagan solstice celebration, with the longest day of the year a time to beseech the gods for a good harvest, plant the maypole—a huge phallos—into the fertile ground, and have drunken orgies.
When Sweden was converted to Christianity the monks, as it turned out, were not super fans of the sacrifice to the pagan gods and drunken orgy bits of the celebration, and tried to have it banned. That didn’t go so well, as people who live in cold, dark, and rain for most of the year really like to let loose when they get a chance.
So the cross bar was added to the maypole to turn it into a cross and the solstice feast, it was decided, was to celebrate the birthday of John the Baptist. And could you please take it down a few notches with the drunken orgy? No?
Photos by Nic Lindh.
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