I have no culture.
But once a year, for one night, I'm Swedish.
Photo by my favorite Swede, Jim Axelsson.
I know, I know. It's kind of strange, because there's probably not a drop of Swedish blood in me, and I'm all the wrong colors, and most of the food is still a mystery. But it's so much fun that I look forward to it every year.
Therefore, here's my guide to having a fun Midsommar.
First, the kids swim. And then we all dance around a maypole and sing fun songs about how frogs don't have ears or tails, but pigs do, and then pigs say NERF NERF NERF. (Note: the first time I danced around the maypole, I thought the song was about half moose-half duck animals that lived in Sweden, and I really wanted to see one. But I was wrong.) And then the children use a pool net to hook goodie bags from behind a fence. They find this so exciting that they all beg to be Swedish.
This year, they got lots of glow-in-the-dark and fiber optic stuff, so they glowed all night.
Which was kind of great, because then we could tell if anyone had fallen in the pool.
Then there's the traditional Riding of the Liöns, but which is like a lion, but stone, and with an umlaut.
Just kidding. that part's not required. It's just an extra added Midsommar bonus.
Then, once the children are fed and sated, the adults sit down under a long tent decorated in the Swedish colors of blue and yellow and have a traditional Swedish meal. There are things you'd expect, thanks to Ikea-- delicious meatballs, potatoes, lingonberries. But then there are mysterious, fantastical things, like perfectly boiled eggs with pink squiggles (THAT AREN'T ICING, WHICH I FOUND OUT THE HARD WAY) and shrimp-things with eyeballs and interesting cheeses in the shape of the maypole and mustard in a TUBE.
You have to sit boy-girl-boy, and you're not allowed to sit next to your spouse. There are little carousels of airplane-sized Swedish liquors strategically placed all along the table, and you start out very picky. By the end of the night, we're all daring each other to try the nastiest ones we can find, especially a very bitter one called Bäska Droppar, which was once voted "the worst liquor in the world". It's kind of a fascinating experience, as the aftertaste is 1000 times worse than the actual drink, such that you take a big swig and say IT'S NOT SO BAD, LOSERS, and then ten minutes later you feel like you ate a frog.
And that's one of *my* Midsommar traditions. Since the hosts' beautiful house is out in the woods by a pool, they have an abundance of frogs and toads. You have to yell to hear each other over their little froggy love songs. And I get all excited and make a ridiculous spectacle out of myself, chasing them around in my heels and fancy dress and scooping them out of the pool and forcing them on all my friends.
Because, honestly, how many times a year can you get drunk and kiss frogs?
That's Gary. He was small and sticky and adorable, and I carried him around for fifteen minutes, until he tried to hop down my dress.
There were also toads, but they weren't as much fun.
Another Midsommar tradition is that everyone has cake and Swedish coffee, which is like jet fuel. Every year, the cake is from Publix, and therefore delicious. This year's cake was, in all honesty, the best Midsommar cake I've ever seen. It was all blue with white and yellow swirls, and it said GLAD MIDSOMMAR. And in the middle of the cake was a UNICORN.
EXTRA ADDED BONUS: Debbie got a picture of the cake!!!!
Now, unicorns aren't a part of the Midsommar tradition. But the unicorn on this cake was magical. And the children got very excited about eating it-- the unicorn, not the cake. So an adult had to cut the cake with surgical precision, divvying the Swedish Midsommar unicorn into sections as skillfully as a butcher dividing a carcass. One kid got the horn, one kid got the face, one kid got the body, several kids got hooves, and one girl considered herself "very spoiled" because she got, and I quote, "ALL THE BUTT."
I ate the D in GLAD. And then I ate everyone else's unfinished cake, because LOOK AT ALL THOSE BOTTLES, YO. Not all mine, BTW. I have learned the hard way that I can't outdrink the Swedes--although I do have to have at least a couple of mini-bottles so that I can keep up with the traditional Swedish drinking songs about throwing the drunken sailor in bed with the Captain's daughter, watching the money roll in to your family of degenerates, and having a little string of liquor down the back of your throat. After every song, everyone yells "Skål!" and takes a drink. And there are *a lot* of songs.
As your basic American mutt, I can't tell you how much it means to me to be included in this beloved tradition. To be invited in and treated like family is a great privilege, and I love to see everyone and catch up and watch the decade's worth of photos scrolling through on the big TV all night. I get to see one of my favorite roommates from college, hang out with another writer, and make jokes with a guy who worked with the wife of a guy I went to high school with.
Sitting there by the pool, eating and drinking and laughing by lantern light as frogs peep-- it's one of my favorite nights of the year.
GLAD MIDSOMMAR, EVERYBODY!