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Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Midsummer's Night Dream

This year was special.  I'm not sure if it was because Doug was leaving for the US the next day, or because we missed it last year but there seemed to be something a bit more magical about the entire celebration this year.  At any rate, I'm savoring the memories of these days spent with our close friends celebrating this most Swedish of all holidays.  Friendships forged over years are very special.  The Akuffo-Brittons have become extended family to us here in Sweden.  We laughed as recalled with their two younger girls that they were a mere 10 and 11 when we first moved to Sweden 13 years ago!  All around the table are young adults now.  Forging a bond with Hannah's oldest daughter who lives in Britain has been very special through the years as well and her husband of one year fits right into this nutty gathering!  I'm not sure that we would do much on this day if not for the little place in the world called Mellösa.  Barbro and Bell live there and our annual reunion remains a highlight for us.  Hannah and Sven always gather a most interesting crew of people from around the world and there is always something interesting to talk about and something funny to laugh at.  The day always end with a walk to the lake to see who will dare to take the midsommarafton swim.  This year, the air was far too cold for me, but Doug and Sven made their way into the water.  Walking home in the late twilight of these wonderfully long days I am filled with joy by the love and friendship that surrounds me.  It is indeed a blessing that I treasure.

Midsommar 2011: Lättsinne

Midsommar would not be midsommar without the frivolity!  I think the Akuffo-Britton gathering wins the prize for frivolity!  The highlight of each celebration is always the National Anthem round where everyone around the table must stand and sing their nation of origin's National Song.  This year we had representatives from The Netherlands, the United States of America, Great Britain, Ghana and Sweden.  All performances were American Idol worthy and each year this tradition just does not disappoint!  Another highlight was the "Sven mask."  Doug had taken a photograph that he had of Sven and made it into a mask.  He put it on and offered a few toasts.  It was hilarious to see them sitting side by side!  Led by the 82 year Bell, the boys decided that they had not had enough of the dancing so engaged in yet another round.  Tanner got to lick the plates and much laughter ensued. Is there anything better than sitting around a table with dear friends enjoying great laughs?  What a gift of grace this is.

Midsommar 2011: Maten

Finally, it is time to eat!What a beautiful table we had this year, the best ever!  Cured salmon, herring, baked spare ribs (not traditional, but delicious!), eggs, boiled potatoes, sour cream and chives, dill, hard bread, radishes, salads, wines and snaps (vodka). Sven is at his happiest when eating this meal! Perfect.  Toasts abounded, conversations were had, joy expressed!  Just when we thought we had had enough, Opokua appears with her amazing strawberry, meringue, ice cream creation!  Towering high over the table, it's beauty was only surpassed by its taste!  We ate every last bit!  I was full and satisfied and completely content by the end of our beautiful midsommar meal.  Even Tanner was happy and content when dinner finished!

Midsommar 2011: Dans Kring Midsommarstången

One of the highlights of going to Mellösa is the charming sense of village togetherness one experiences when attending the festivities around the Midsommarstången, the midsummer pole! I think Swedes are born with these songs and dances in their minds and hearts and it is a joy to see them engage each song and dance with such vigor year after year.  We saw the farmers drive the midsommarstången to the village center!  So exciting! 
Here we are one more year with our dear friends Hannah and Sven
And our motley international crew adds color and variety to the gathering! Tanner loves to watch the world go by and the free ice cream at the end of the celebration is always a fan favorite!  I don't really know the words to the songs in full, but have learned enough bits to get into the action.  I know we do our household chores on different days of the week and of course, we act like frogs and dance around whilst exclaiming that frogs have no ears or tails.  It is absolutely nonsensical and we love every minute of the joy.

Midsommar 2011: Förberedelser

The morning of midsommarafton (the eve of midsummer, which is the day the Swedes celebrate), the preparations begin! The conversation around the breakfast table is lively and warm.  Doug made omelets for all and we enjoyed anticipating the wonderful day that awaited us.  There was even some time to enjoy the morning sunshine in the garden.I am not a big fish lover but my dear friend Hannah, from Ghana, takes the time and effort to make gravad lax (cured salmon), the centerpiece of the Swedish midsommar meal.  I always have one piece of Hannah's lax smothered in her delicious mustard sauce!  But there are potatoes to peel and strawberries to clean and cream to whip and tables to set and flowers to pick!  I decided to make my own wreath this year, a crown of flowers!  I have never done this before and while my "krans" looked a little crazy, I guess, a bit like me, it was fun to have accomplished this task!  It lasted through the first toast and I was satisfied with that.  The boys did an exemplary job converting the ping pong table into a beautifully set midsommar table!  Soon, the dancing around the midsommar pole would start.  The preparations were almost complete...the party was about to begin!

Midsommar 2011: Plats

We are very lucky to have such a wonderfully cozy little village in which to celebrate midsommar. I cannot remember when we first began celebrating midsommar with Hannah and Sven but it has been at least 8 years because our former dog, Lucy, was also part of the initial celebrations!  Mellösa is such a lovely little place.  We have come to love the stuga on the railroad (in fact, Doug and I and Tanner have taken over the old station house as our own private little stuga in the shadow of the big house!).  The village itself is quite charming with the big church that hovers over things, a beautiful lake where the swimming takes place, a lovely graveyard, active farms and beautiful flowers growing throughout.  Tanner is perhaps his very happiest canine self here in this little village where he gets to roam in the garden and swim in the lake. 
The cows are very happy and content here as well.  I think they look forward to when the strange American man, (Doug) comes by and moos at them.  Celebrating midsommar at the huge, tourist locations certainly holds its own value, but for us...the charm of Mellösa, our dear friends, and the wonderful traditions that we have developed in addition to the regular Swedish activities make us long to come here, year after year.  I can't think of another place I'd rather be than in this little town with our dear friends on Midsommar weekend.

Midsommar 2011: Dagen Innan

We returned to tradition this year and headed for Mellösa, home of the summer stuga of our dear friends, Hannah and Sven, to celebrate midsommarafton (midsummer eve)...arguably the biggest Swedish holiday of the year.  This holiday celebrates the solstice, the weeks of long light that follow, the beginning of a 5 week vacation for many, and the beautiful summer time of Sweden.  It usually rains and is often cold, but hey, the Swedes celebrate summer anyway.  You gotta love a culture that takes total delight in it simply not raining on their favorite holiday!  We left town on Thursday evening, drove through driving rain but eventually came across some of the most beautiful evening light I've ever seen.  When the sun shines brightly in the late hours here, there's nothing like it. (Sorry, no photos. We were in the car.)  All arrived about the same time and we enjoyed some warm conversation well into the night.  We were all pleasantly surprised to realize that it was 11.00 p.m.  We all thought it was early evening as the light played tricks with our desire to go to sleep!  But we knew that a marvelous day awaited us, so we went to bed in the twilight of a late June night.  Yes, all of these photos were taken around 11.00 p.m. on June 23, 2011.