A Magic Day in June
Swedish Midsummer is magical. It is my favorite holiday, I like it even more than I like Christmas. It is a wonderful holiday in the end of June. It brings friends and family of all ages together, and there is something for everyone. When I moved to Chicago, I heard that they celebrate Midsummer Fest every year in the Swedish area called Andersonville. I got so excited until I experienced it myself, and discovered how different it is from what I am used to back home in Sweden. Chicago made an interpretation of my beloved Midsummer and twisted it to something completely different.
Flowers play an important part in Swedish Midsummer. In the old days, the Swedes thought Midsummer was especially magic, and the herb powers were extra strong. This idea lives on today, and every year, mostly women and young girls, but also some men, make flower crowns to wear on their heads. When I celebrated Midsummer in Chicago, my friend and I were the only ones with flower crowns. The crowns are a big deal to me because they make me feel pretty, and it is the only time I can walk around with a large flower crown on my head without people thinking that I am weird. Another tradition that comes from the magic in flowers is to pick seven different types of flowers and put them under your pillow, it is said that you will dream of your one true love that night. I did not try this in Chicago, but from past experiences I can say that there is no guarantee to dream of true love.
After the flower crowns are made, it is a tradition to visit friends or family for a traditional Midsummer lunch. The Midsummer food is a meal I have learned to love. The traditional meal consists of new potatoes and pickled herring, served with sour cream and chives. For dessert, we have strawberries with cream. At home, I always went with my dad to the local strawberry field, and we picked the strawberries together. I never did a lot of things with my dad, so this is one thing I really missed here in Chicago, where there is no “self picking” of strawberries, unless you're willing to drive a bit outside the city to a berry farm. During lunch we drink schnapps, which is a special kind of liquor. In between bites, we sing a little drinking song and then we take a shot. In Sweden, the drinking age is 18, so I have gotten used to drinking the schnapps, but in the U.S it is 21, so last year I was not allowed to drink it at all.
Before everyone leaves for the evening’s festivities people go to our local Maypole, which is where family and friends bond. The Maypole is built up like a cross with two rings hanging from the vertical pole, and it is decorated with leaves and flowers. Everyone goes to a Maypole, so they are set up all over to make sure everyone has somewhere to go. At the Maypole there is something for everyone. There are games to play, live music, and for the kids they have a candy rain where they try to catch as much candy as they can. When I was younger, I always used to go to the people throwing the candy, telling them I failed to catch any, so they would give me more. It worked every time. I love to go here because I get to spend time with my friends and family, and dance around the Maypole. I looked forward to this a lot when I got here only to discover that the Chicago Midsummer Fest is a three day long festival that has food, drinks, and a parade. There is no dancing around the pole, no candy rain, and the music was more DJ’s and bands than the easy singalong songs I am used to.
When I heard that Chicago had a Midsummer fest, I set my expectations way too high. I expected the warmth and togetherness I felt with my friends and family back in Sweden, but since they're not here, it can’t be the same. So much got lost in translation when Chicago made their own interpretation of the Swedish holiday, and most of the people attending the festival don’t even know what they are missing, or what they are celebrating. For this year’s Midsummer fest I think I will have to host it myself to make sure that it is the way I want it, and the way we do it in Sweden. In Chicago it is not as magical as it is back home, and I believe that I will just have to accept that and make the best of what I have.