The pole is called either Maypole or Midsummer Pole. There are two reasons for this: 1) the festivities are held in May further south in Europe, but because spring comes later to Northern Europe, the celebration there is held in June. The words Maypole and Midsummer Pole (Majstång and Midsommarstång in Swedish) are used interchangeably. 2) The word Maypole is also associated with the verb maja which means to decorate with leaves for the Mayfest.

 Midsummer in Scandinavia is a celebration of the Summer solstice, the longest day of  the year. On Midsummer Eve, Swedes dance around maypoles decorated with flowers and leaves.  The traditions have their origin in pre-Christian times, but the church decided to give them a Christian connotation by associating Midsummer's Eve with John the Baptist's birthday, June 24. In 1953, Midsummer was made a movable holiday in Sweden, with Midsummer Day on the Saturday that falls between June 20 and 26.

Midsummer is also celebrated in the other Scandinavian countries. Maypoles are most common in Sweden, but are also raised in Finland. Bonfires are a part of the celebration in Denmark, Norway and Finland.  Organized Midsummer events are not as common in Iceland as in the other Scandinavian countries. In recent years,Viking Solstice Festivals with Viking clothing, jewelry, crafts, food and drink, etc., have taken hold in Iceland.

Midsummer is also celebrated by people of Scandinavian descent in other countries. The pictures on this page are from the 2008 Midsummer Celebration hosted by the House of Sweden at the International Cottages in Balboa Park, San Diego.

(Click on the thumbnails to see larger pictures.)

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Scandinavian Cottages at Balboa Park, San Diego


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