When the nights are getting lighter and the sun does not seem to set until just before sunrise, then midsummer is near. In Sweden midsummer is celebrated on the Friday and Saturday that fall between the 19 and the 26 of June. There are many traditions and customs but the foremost tradition is that of the Midsummer Pole or the Maypole.
It is a huge pole all dressed with birch leaves and wild flowers. One popular belief is that the tradition of raising a Maypole has its origins in Pre-Christian times and that the pole was actually a huge phallic fertility symbol meant to impregnate the earth.
Today people gather round the Maypole, to watch traditional dancers dressed in folkloristic clothes perform. When the show is over the whole crowd starts to dance, usually accompanied by accordions and violins and a commentator who shouts out various moves when necessary. Old and young hop around the Midsummer Pole together, pretending to be crows, musicians and space rockets. But the all time favorite dance is the one where everyone suddenly turns into little frogs, singing cheerfully about the little creature without ears and tail while jumping and pointing to the missing ears and tail. If one is lucky, that masterpiece of choreography will be followed by the pig dance and the elephant dance…
Many a tourist have had difficulties in keeping a straight face watching Swedish crowds croak and hop around like frogs. But hey, what does it matter… it is fun! Phallic symbol or not, to gather around the Maypole is a tradition few Swedes would like to miss out on.