I love a good holiday. A day or two where an entire country goes a little crazy in celebration is restorative and liberating. Australia doesn’t have many truly great, festive days. Australia Day is controversial, the Queens’ birthday makes no sense and ANZAC Day can’t be deemed a celebration. Apart from religious holidays, what’s left?
This year, Friday, June 20 marks Midsummer’s Eve, also known throughout the northern hemisphere as the 'summer solstice'. Midsummer is a highpoint on Europe’s festive calendar, especially in Sweden. For a population that spends much of the year in the bitter darkness, the arrival of summer is a national invitation to party.
Originally a pagan tradition, midsummer typically falls somewhere between June 19 and 26. As this date happens to coincide with St John’s Feast Day, midsummer has taken on a religious aspect in many countries. However, the Swedes have been reluctant to jettison their pagan ways. Eat, drink and be merry is definitely the catchphrase of this particular celebration. For further information about midsummer in Sweden - click here.
Due to its pagan associations, the holiday also possesses a mystical quality for the Swedish people. It is a time when the forces of nature take control, when anything is possible and passions burn freely.
It is during midsummer that Anna Charlier, the heroine of my novel Perfect North, lays flowers under her pillow in the hope of dreaming of her future husband – a midsummer night’s dream, indeed! Likewise, Erik Strindberg falls head over heels (not literally) on the dance floor when the charming Anna, decked out in her midsummer finery, catches his eye. Coincidentally (or not), births in Sweden in the month of March are higher than at any other time of the year!
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if a summer solstice celebration took off in Australia? But until that happens, I’ll just have to be content with Easter. Hot cross buns, autumnal colours and the prospect of a bunny bringing me chocolate marks this as my favourite holiday.