Scandinavian Summer

What is Midsommar, Noc Kupały, and Juhannus?

midsommar midsommarafton via mokkasin
Image Credit: Midsommarafton [midsummer] via Mokkasin

One midsummer when I was probably eleven or so, I remember spending the weekend at my great-grandparents’ lakeside cabin in Upper Michigan. The scenery everywhere up there looks exactly like this, even though these photos are from Finland, and not Michigan. Fascinating, isn’t it, considering how many Nordic immigrants settled in the Upper Peninsula?

Brett Seward
Image Credit: Sweden in summer by Brett Seward

That weekend, in between carving my name in the paper-white bark of birch trees, eating sour wild strawberries and floating in the cold lake, I remember the Finnish-language program Suomi Kutsuu playing on the little living room TV, showing what seemed like endless footage of a bonfire slowly burning in the middle of the lake. I didn’t put two and two together then — I wasn’t what you’d call an observant child — but I was at my great-grandparents’ place over Juhannus!  Although you might not know Juhannus by name, you probably know Swedish midsommar, and you most certainly know summer solstice.

Midsommar crown
Image Credit: Crown by Mendocino Floral Design via Style Me Pretty

In the northern US states of Michigan or Minnesota, both around latitude 46° N, the summer solstice marks a magically late sunset — no wonder I didn’t get much sleep that weekend! Can you imagine midsummer’s eve in Stockholm or Helsinki, at 60° N? Incredible, the daylight must stretch on forever! [As a comparison, Orlando is at 28.4° N, and Oaxaca, where I was born, is even further down at 16.9° N)

Midsummer traditions vary among different Northern European countries, but my favorites are the lake bonfires, or kokko, of Finnish Juhannus, the floral crowns of Swedish Midsommar, and the glittering floating lanterns of Poland’s Noc Kupały.

Although a sky full of lanterns or a water’s edge bonfire might be a bit hard to pull off where you live, you can still celebrate midsommar. Do you have plans this weekend? Maybe you’ll celebrate with a maypole and a Swedish smörgåsbord (pickled herring and dill potatoes!), or maybe you’ll gather flowers and make a pretty floral crown.

Or, maybe, your nod to the summer solstice will simply be tossing and turning, wishing you’d purchased blackout drapes. ;)

However you celebrate, god midsommar!

Life in Photos, Poetry & Words

POETRY & WORDS :: Yes, We Know. And We Do.

Bride and groom Bridesmaids wearing mismatched black

When we announced we’d be married on the 13th, people gasped. “Oh!” they said, “Don’t you know that means your anniversary will” — here they lowered their voices to a whisper — “sometimes be on Friday the thirteenth?

“Yes,” we said.

“We know.

And yes, we know the bridesmaids are wearing black. And the wedding party is walking in to The Godfather theme. And we’re reading from Isaiah. And it’s going to be ok.”

(Did they forget about the One who makes all things new?)

Happy five years, Josiah. It’s been a little bit more than ok.

Life in Photos, Little Style

LITTLE STYLE :: Aveline’s First Birthday – Handmade Felt Feather Birthday Crown, Stuffed Plush Toy Bunny, and Gluten-free Chocolate Cake

Handmade felt feather crown - Feathered birthday crown

Aveline’s birthday yesterday was such a lot of fun! I can’t believe she’s a whole year old. We had a quiet little party for her, just Josiah and I, since our families are millions thousands of miles away — but it was joyous and beautiful and so full of laughter. (She even got to FaceTime and talk with both sets of grandparents!)

And can I just say I’m really happy with the way her feathered crown turned out? Even if the feathers did keep flopping over. I’m hoping to make a different birthday crown for her each year. My mom made us special birthday hats when we were little, and I thought it was the best thing ever.

What are your favorite birthday traditions — either from your childhood, or for your own children? I think it would be great to make a new handmade toy for her each birthday as well!

Oaxacaborn - First Birthday - Handmade Kawaii Plush Toy Creature

Oaxacaborn - First Birthday - Gluten-free Chocolate Cake

Oaxacaborn - First Birthday - First taste of cake

Oaxacaborn - First Birthday - Close up of baby taking bite of cake

Oaxacaborn - Baby birthday cake

Oaxacaborn - First Birthday - Baby in highchair eating cake

Oaxacaborn - First Birthday - Cake Crumbs

Oaxacaborn - First Birthday - Pink first birthday candle

Oaxacaborn - First Birthday - Cake crumbs on IKEA Blames high chair tray

P.S. Here is the gluten-free chocolate cake recipe I used.