Raise the maypole and celebrate summer at Scandinavian festivals
In June, midsummer festivals occur all across northern Europe. They have special significance in the Scandinavian countries, where days are long.
In northern Sweden, the sun never sets. In southern Sweden, there is only an hour or two of darkness.
It's a time of families and friends coming together to celebrate the beginning of summer, traveling to the countryside and enjoying the beauty of nature.
Young people make floral wreaths to hang on the maypole. And single women are encouraged to pick seven different flowers to put under their pillow at night. According to legend, they will dream of their future husband.
There's dancing, games, food and bonfires to burn away any evil spirits.
In the Fox Valley, you can celebrate midsummer this weekend. South Elgin's Vasa Park will come alive with the Scandinavian Midsommar Celebration from 3:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 17.
The festivities begin with the traditional pole raising and dancing around the maypole. At 6 p.m. everyone can enjoy the bounty of Scandinavian cooks when families share their finest dish to pass. The evening ends with the ceremonial toast and a traditional bonfire.
Cost is $5 with children younger than 12 admitted free. More information is available at www.vasaparkil.com.
On Sunday June 18, the public is invited to Good Templar Park in Geneva for Swedish Day 2017. This is the 107th year for the popular one-day festival that celebrates Swedish heritage.
"In the beginning, many Scandinavians who lived in the Chicago area came to Good Templar Park to enjoy the beautiful surroundings," said Craig Hanson, Swedish Day president. "The men would spend weekends here; their families would stay for the entire summer."
It was convenient for Chicagoans since there was a stop on the third rail at Good Templar Park."
Once again, the park draws people from throughout the Chicago area, especially on Swedish Day. You don't even have to miss church to attend, since there is a church service at 10 a.m. It's a fun-filled day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with Swedish music from the Swedish American Children's Choir and Swedish dancing. Although not Swedish, Invisible Cartoons, a Chicago smile-rock band, performs at 2:15 p.m.
A Swedish restaurant will serve up Swedish delicacies, including Swedish pancakes, herring, Cardamom coffee braid and almond tarts.
Activities will include games for children, including a lutefisk toss.
"We eat the herring and toss the lutefisk," joked Hanson.
There will be a Viking re-enactment taking place along with tours of the Viking, an exact replica of the viking ship, the Gokstad. In 1893, under Captain Magnus Andersen, she sailed across the Atlantic from Bergen, Norway, to the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
Those attending will also have the opportunity to tour some of the cottages in Good Templar Park. Although her cottage is not on the tour, cottage owner Karen Kloubec, feels that the tour is a wonderful opportunity to view cottage life and see the beautiful landscape.
Swedish Day is also an opportunity to keep many different Scandinavian customs alive, including the traditional dance around the Maypole.
"It was so much fun to see people dance around the Maypole last year," said Kloubec. "There were about 150 out there dancing together."
You don't have to be Swedish, or Scandinavian to enjoy these special festivals. It's a great opportunity to celebrate at the beginning of summer and learn about the Scandinavian culture.
If you goScandinavian Midsommar FestivalWhen: 3:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 17
Where: Vasa Park, 35W217 Route 31, South Elgin
Cost: $5; children younger than 12 admitted free.
Details: (847) 695-6720 or www.vasaparkil.com
Swedish Day Midsummer Festival When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 18
Where: Good Templar Park, 528 East Side Drive, Geneva
Cost: $5; children 12 and younger admitted free.
Details: (847) 845-2640 or www.swedishday.net.