17 June 2013

The Scandinavian Celebration of Midsummer

Midsummer celebration (e-how.com)

The Midsummer Night and Day near the end of June (summer solstice) are called the Jonsok or Sankt Hans, both named after John the Baptist.  However, the roots of this special celebration surrounding the shortest night and the longest day of the year reach all the way back to pagan times, when everybody paid tribute to the powers of the sun god with bonfires signifying the defeat of darkness.  In addition, it was as good an excuse as any for a bit of "whooping-up," knowing as they did that soon the long, dark fall and winter months would engulf them.  And on this night out of the deep forests, down from the mountains, up from the rivers and fjords would come the magic creatures--the trolls, the hulders, the nisser, the fosse-grimmer and the nøkker--invisible partners in all the merrymaking..." [1]

File:John Bauer 1915.jpg
Trolls, as envisioned in 1915 by illustrator, John Bauer.
Wikemedia Commons

"How to Celebrate a Norwegian Midsummer" (synopsis):

--Decorate with plenty of alpine-like flowers, similar to those that grow in Norway.  You can also display strings of paper Norwegian flags and use the flag colors of red, white, and blue in table settings.

--Boil up a pot of shrimp.  They are plentiful in Norway in midsummer, and are typically served with homemade mayonnaise.

--Get your smorgasbord on.  Some suggestions are:  smoked salmon, pickled herring, Jarlsberg cheese, flatbread, lefse, and other Norwegian specialties.
--Offer shots of Akevitt to guests.  If you can't find Akevitt, then go with a Danish beer.

--Put on a pot or two of coffee, as "...true Norwegians drink it at all hours of the day throughout the year."
--Have a bonfire, or light as many candles as you can when the sun goes down, but don't set anything on fire!   Then, let your imagination take flight as darkness falls and shadows grow...  Ghost stories around the campfire, anyone?

[1] Bent Vanberg.  Of Norwegian Ways (Harper & Row:  New York, 1970)

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