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How to Celebrate Swedish Midsummer

An A-to-Z-guide in how to worship reproduction in the 21st century.

Sweden experiences an annual baby boom nine months after Midsummer. That's because Midsummer is a pagan fertility ritual. It's also the most important weekend of the year, which can be described as a free zone for people to live out their wildest fantasies. However, Swedish Midsummer is an odd contradiction. I mean, Sweden is a place where gender roles are actively oppressed against 363 days a year. During one weekend in the mid-end of June however, gender roles are suddenly the shit: Girls are encouraged to wear white cotton underwear, sleep with seven different flowers under their pillows for their silly dreams to come true, and take part in various traditions that will help them meet a man to marry rather than being single, get a wife, or be whoever it is that they want to be. Despite the out of date mythologies surrounding the custom, everybody should experience Midsummer at least once in their lives. It's fun and weird. Unfortunately, a lot of traditions surrounding Midsummer are on the verge of being lost. And these days even Swedes are getting it wrong.

Whether you live in Sweden or not, you will come across the custom at some point in your life, because Swedes tend to bring it with them wherever they go. So we made this handy A-to-Z-guide in how to worship reproduction in the 21st century – consider it as Midsummer for dummies.

Photo by Flickr user the_ml

A is for Alcohol
There are few occasions when it's legitimate to drink alcohol to the point that you suffer poisoning. It's key when eating fermented herring (ew), attending a crayfish party, and at Midsummer. On the Midsummer Friday, Sweden – which normally has pretty strict alcohol laws – becomes one giant blasted nation. It's almost considered rude not to drink. Gulp shots, beer, wine, and vodka separately or blended together – whatever – as long as it's alcohol. Every other drink however should be a snaps, which is a herb-flavoured vodka, or Brännvin as we call it. Beware though, you're only allowed to drink snaps if you sing a song whilst doing so. Skål! Honourable mentions: activities, archipelago, adultery


B is for Banging
The reason to why people have more sex at Midsummer than any other time of the year is a simple as the sun – literally. The sun's up between 17 to 24 hours per day depending on where in Sweden you are. Celebrate the light with a penis in your mouth! Have sex with whomever you like. Do it in groups, do it outside, or do it in front of people. No one will remember anyway. Also, now is the only time when alcohol is an authorised excuse for behaving like a dick, ever. Honourable mentions: boats, blossom, breakups

C is for Crying
Maybe you just watched the guy you like having sex with your mum, or twisted your ankle as you attempted to do the frog-dance around the Maypole. Or maybe you've been vomiting to the point that your eyes simply cannot stop producing tears. Whatever it is, Midsummer is a time for crying. Crying has the same rules as for B: Do it in groups, alone, or in front of people. Remember to never be embarrassed about it. You'll be thanking yourself for letting it all out on the day rather than a week later when you're realising that all your relationships have been scarred for all eternity. Honourable mentions: chlamydia, camping, cheating

D is for Drinking Drink water, FFS. For the rest, see A. Honourbale mentions: DUI (as in Drinking Under Influence), dicks, do

Photo by Sara Brolin

E is for Erection The good old mighty pagan Maypole symbolises an erected penis. You will make it together: The men will build the pole, and the women will gather the flowers or whatever stuff you want to decorate it with. Then you'll dance around it together and praise it together. You might think that the worship songs are folklore. They're not. These are children's songs, always ending with the "Rocket" that simply symbolises ejaculation. Don't tell the kids though – they'll learn soon enough. Honourable mentions: eggs, eating, elaborate


F is for Fighting Gatherings of drunken people cause fights. Also, family traumas have been kept inside for the past six months ever since Christmas when no one could be bothered to fight. On Midsummer, as you've witnessed things you never wanted to see, fuelled by sunlight and pain – when crying isn't soothing your sorrows anymore – fighting is the only thing that's left. Punch your dad in the face, slap your brother, and kick your best friend in the stomach. But girls, stay out of it. Fighting is a man-on-man activity, and should be kept civilised enough to keep the cops away. Honourable mentions: fallos, fun, flirting

Photo by Ylva Lundberg

G is for Games Play a game. Make something up. Make role-play! It will rain at some point, so bring cards, Monopoly and Scrabble – and make strip versions at all times. See F and A for further information. Honourable mentions: garlands, grass, gazebo

H is for Herring You might not be a fan of fish. Few people are unless it's sushi. But pickled herring comes in different flavours and is as essential to the Midsummer-lunch as snaps, beer, and "Helan Går". Eat the sauce from the mustard-herring with loads of potato – no one likes herring without its sauce anyway. Eat the sauce on cracker bread. But remember, herring sauce isn't particularly fulfilling – and you're only eating lunch as an excuse to drink anyway – soothing your hunger with alcohol is the only way to go. Honourable mentions: hangover, holiday, happiness I is for Insanity The shocking amount of sun combined with unhealthy amounts of alcohol cause psychosis and bad mental health. Drink water, take naps, and go for a walk if it's about to get too much for you. You will make mistakes that you have to deal with in one way or another, so just make sure these mistakes don't ruin your life completely. If people around you are loosing their minds, give them a hug. If that doesn't help, drink together until all of you pass out. Honourable mentions: infidelity, intoxication, intimacy

Photo by Sara Brolin

J is for Jumping You will have to do the frog-dance. That means jumping around a pole like a moron. It doesn't matter how silly it makes you look like. Everyone does it. But hey, it's a good icebreaker as well as it's an opportunity to see how people look like in awkward positions. Honourable mentions: jab, jolly, jingle K is for Kamikaze See I. Honourable mentions: knives, kissing, klebsiella L is for Love You might not know this, but having sex is an act of love. And eating fish together with people you care about is a pretty loving act to do, too. Honourable mentions: lace, lick, lame

Photo by Flickr user henke

M is for Men Although the majority of Midsummer rituals apply to the ladies, the men are the real stars. Midsummer is the only time when it's OK to behave like an alpha-male. I mean, dancing around a giant pole is for the love of you boys – or at least for the love of your semen. Enjoy it while you can, but don't think you can continue acting like some sort of king after Midsummer – if you are, you're just an asshole who deserves to be alone. Honourable mentions: music, masturbation, maypole


N is for Naked Ahh, the midnight-swim together with fit babes… Well, you're more likely to do the sauna together with that fit babe's dad, and it's against the rules to hang around with swimwear on. Get undressed already. Be free. If you're worried that you'll get an erection, don't. Guys who get it up after poisonous amounts of booze have enough self-control to use their dicks on their own terms. Honourable mentions: nature, night, naughty O is for Orgasm Being a fertile alpha-male means that you're supposed to spread your semen. However, if you think that this has anything to do with pleasure – as in actually enjoying whatever act you're choosing to take part in – you're wrong. Midsummer-orgasms are followed by shame and regret, so make sure you enjoy that split second of squirt, as it will be over in a blink. Honourable mentions: offensive, obvious, oral sex P is for Pregnancy Duh, the chances that you'll get pregnant or impregnate someone on Midsummer are up 200 percent. The pill won't help, sorry. Honourable mentions: party, pesticide, peeing

Photo by Flickr user

Q is for Quizzes See G. Honourable mentions: quick, quitting, (I)Q R is for is for Reading Midsummer isn't only about getting wasted and screwing your neighbour. It's also a time to chill and catch up on those books you never have time to read because you're addicted to Instagram. You're not supposed to be exposed to technologies other than flashlights and boat engines. Leave your computer at home. Lie down and read a fucking book. You need it. Honourable mentions: relax, rain, romance S if for Snaps See A, D, and H. Honourable mentions: sauna, singing, salmon


T is for Tics The tic is Sweden's version of the black widow. It's a tiny animal that viciously waits in the grass for a drunken girl to empty her rosé wine-filled bladder on top of him, only to attach its face anywhere on any labium. Before New Years Eve, she'll either be paralysed or six-feet-under. Honourable mentions: tears, traditions, tongues

U is for Umbrella So you're celebrating that summer finally is here? Why don't you pick a day when it's cold and rainy – and yes, you are drunk and you will be singing along to a Rihanna song. You will also pee yourself in front of people you wanted to have as future parents in law. It doesn't matter though, cause it's raining anyway. Just make sure they can't smell you. Honourable mentions: underwear, urine, ukulele

V is for Vomit You're eating pickled herring, sour cream and strawberries and sinking it down with barrels of herb-flavoured snaps. Who do you think you are? Andre the Giant? No, there will be the Niagara Falls of stomach fluids and rotten fish coming out of your mouth before the sun goes down (oh yeah, it doesn't). Honourable mentions: vacation, verdict, vales (as in poetry)

W is for Water Drink water. Don't argue, just do it. Nothing can end more catastrophic than when bunches of people are stranded in some old cabin with unlimited amounts of booze without drinking water. You know that you're drinking enough water when you're worried that you're about to drown from the inside. Honourable mentions: wild, wreck, wasted

Photo by Ylva Lundberg

X is for (E)X If you still haven't got it, Midsummer is all about tradition. In this case that means that you are going to spend an evening with people you never hang out with anymore. This means your ex is going to be there. You are going to make out behind some old wooden house. Then her boyfriend will chase you down and fight you, and then you'll cry – not because your nose is broken, but because you just lost your high-school sweetheart to a gorilla with a yellow short-sleeved shirt. Honourable mentions: Xanax, x-rated, Xbox Y is for YOLO You only live once. And non-Swedes, you'll probably only celebrate midsummer once. Embrace it. Do it till the last drop of snaps. Indulge yourself in it. But never, under any circumstances, do anything while saying "YOLO" – nothing's worth it that much, not even Midsummer. Honourable mentions: youth, "YMCA", Y-chromosome

Z is for Zzz If you're tired, sleep. Take some time out. Get some rest. You deserve it. If not, you will most definitely end up with brain damage. And you want to experience the same thing next year, right? Honourable mentions: zodiac, zoo, zealous

Additional reporting by Simon Walldén. Follow Simon and Caisa on Twitter.