Midsummer eve was yesterday, and my colleague RS invited me to join in with the full traditional Swedish thing. So in the morning I went to a park with RS and her kids, and watched the whole process of decorating and then setting up the big, er, fertility symbol thing and then dancing around it. I didn't dance, because that midsommarstång is some weird hybrid of a cross and an asherah. There's a (somewhat huge, I'm afraid) image below the cut showing what I mean. If you click on it it links to a selection of the photos I took; the set involving children being adorable is friends-locked because I don't want to get in trouble for posting pictures of other people's children online.
It's actually quite difficult to get a decent image of the midsommarstång, because it's either camouflaged against the trees or silhouetted against the light. But I hope you get the general idea.
Then on to the more adult part of the occasion, a barbecue at the home of another colleague. We ate and ate and ate. Traditional midsummer things like smoked salmon (which the hostess sculpted into a model midsommarstång!) and pickled herring and potatoes and strawberries and cream, and lots of other food just because it was nice to eat. Lots of tasty salads, and the whole gamut of breads and crackers and the like, and a plethora of cake and icecream, and homemade elderflower cordial and wine and beer. I enjoyed the barbecue vicariously because it smelled delicious!
There was a lot of good conversation, and another impromptu book swapping session. This means I am no longer short of reading material, and we've provisionally agreed to get together over the summer and do this on a larger scale. It was an interesting experience going through my books today and deciding which ones I could stand to put into the general pool for the anglophone community; doing this is a good antidote to my hoarding tendencies.
One sour note: it seems that now it's my second summer here, I've become sensitized to the local allergens. I have the most rotten hayfever I've ever suffered from, but to be honest, feeling as if I'm permanently about to start a cold (the bit before you actually feel sick though) is far less horrible than not being able to breathe.