Nordic Midsummer Analysis 2019: Maypole or Bonfire?

After the long winter it is finally time to celebrate the solstice and the nightless nights in the Nordic countries, Midsummer. Or Sankthansaften, as they say in Norway, Sankthans in Denmark, Juhannus in Finland, Midsommar in Sweden and Jónsmessa in Iceland. To prevent any cultural and regional collisions during Nordic Midsummer festivities Nordregio dived into the Nordic celebrations to find out: Should there be a bonfire or maypole? Who is most concerned about rainy Midsummer weather? Nordregio undertook a thorough data collection (Google Trends) to create this representative picture of Nordic Midsummer interests.

The analysis depicts different Midsummer activities with five different colors, in some regions it is a battle between the two most dominating interests (regions with two colors) and some regions have taken all the cherries on top and adopted a balanced midsummer interest (green).

According to our analysis, the maypole dance, an old fertility rite, still lives on as a tradition in Sweden and Åland, while the actual dancing around the pole might have absorbed some new moves along the centuries. Instead of dancing, Finland and Denmark light bonfires to celebrate warmth and the power of the sun, except the region Satakunta in Finland which is busy worrying about the weather. Denmark takes the bonfire tradition one step further as they also burn a figurine witch in the fire.

What should be served on Midsummer? Beer, when in Norway. With beer there should also be herring when celebrating with people from Sogn og Fjordane and prepare to light a bonfire when in Møre og Romsdal or Rogaland region.

Sweden seems to have the most significant regional differences in traditions. While the rest of Sweden is dancing around the fertility poles, people on Gotland focus on sipping beer with herring. Värmland combines beer and dancing around the maypole (let’s be honest, like probably most of Sweden).

The most shocking revelation comes from Iceland; Midsummer is not that big of a deal for the Icelanders. If you happen to see them rolling naked in the wet grass they are most likely celebrating Midsummer, but luckily that is not a common sight. The Icelanders celebrate their national day usually on that same week (17 June) so Nordregio assumes that the recovery period is too short.


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