7 Facts About Sweden's Midsummer Celebration

Andreas Modess, iStock / Getty Images Plus
Andreas Modess, iStock / Getty Images Plus

Horror fans are anticipating July 3’s release of Midsommar, a creepy thriller in which two American tourists (Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor) experience the little-seen traditions of Sweden’s Midsummer Festival. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, director Ari Aster called the movie's Midsummer “a particularly special iteration of the festival,” and the film certainly takes liberties with the real experience, which is far from terrifying. Take a look at how locals actually celebrate this annual gathering and why it’s become a such a treasured part of Swedish culture.

1. Midsummer started as a way to welcome summer (and maybe fertility).

Table in a garden ready for Swedish Midsummer celebration
Birgittas, iStock / Getty Images Plus

Sweden has been celebrating Midsummer (midsommar in Swedish) for centuries. The event, which is typically held on the Friday after the summer solstice, is intended to recognize the beginning of the country’s summer and its five-week annual holiday, including a stretch of time where, in the northern part of the country, the sun never actually sets. Most Swedish cities have their own Midsummer event, and many are marked by dancing around a flower-covered maypole, which some have interpreted as a representation of fertility (however, others argue that no explicit connection has been found between the two).

2. During Midsummer, city streets can be empty.

Midsummer’s one concession to appearing spooky: Because celebrations take place in the countryside, most residents head out of town for the festivities beginning on Midsummer’s Eve, leaving their cities almost devoid of people. Businesses shut down and roads are cleared. That eerie serenity is broken as soon as you hit the main thoroughfares, which are typically congested with cars looking to get to the country.

3. Midsummer revelers pick flowers to find true love.

Midsummer flowers in Sweden
bildfokus, iStock / Getty Images Plus

During Midsummer, both men and women participate in a tradition: They pick seven different species of flowers and put them under their pillow. Legend has it that their future spouse will appear to them in a dream. Due to the romance of the festival, Sweden experiences quite the uptick in its population. According to CNN, many children are born exactly nine months following the celebration.

4. During Midsummer, the drink of choice is aquavit.

Traditionally, Midsummer revelers eat potatoes, pickled herring, and strawberries for lunch, and they typically imbibe on beer and aquavit, a spirit distilled from potatoes or grains and flavored with either caraway or dillseed. There’s no masking the taste, either. People usually drink it straight (though chasing it with a beer isn’t unheard of). Wine and other beverages are rare sights.

5. Some Midsummer attendees wear traditional clothing. 

Attendees celebrate the Midsummer holiday in Sweden
Donald Judge, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Revelers in Sweden typically attend Midsummer parties in casual or garden party-type clothing. But some make an effort to wear the traditional folk dress, or folkdrekten, of their region. In Småland, women wear white lace blouses and ankle-length skirts; men wear blue vests and elk skin pants. Participants make their own flower crowns, or krans.

6. Midsummer has a classic song about frogs.

There is a significant amount of singing that goes into Midsummer. One traditional song is "Små Grodorna," or "Little Frogs." Partygoers sing the lyrics ("the little frogs … are funny to observe") while dancing around the maypole and pretending to hop around like amphibians. If you’re a tourist and are invited to join in, you probably should.

7. Even IKEA celebrates Midsummer.

Swedish furniture firm IKEA doesn’t let Midsummer go by unnoticed. Each year, stores will often lay out a Midsummer Smorgasbord for customers. The all-you-can-eat buffet runs $16.99 ($4.99 for kids) and features trademark Midsummer dishes like herring, potato salad, and fresh strawberries.

7 Historic European Castles Virtually Rebuilt Before Your Very Eyes

A reconstruction of Spiš Castle in eastern Slovakia.
A reconstruction of Spiš Castle in eastern Slovakia.
Budget Direct

While some centuries-old castles are still standing tall, others haven’t withstood the ravages of time, war, or natural disaster quite as well. To give you an idea of what once was, Australia-based insurance company Budget Direct has digitally reconstructed seven of them for its blog, Simply Savvy.

Watch below as ruins across Europe transform back into the formidable forts and turreted castles they used to be, courtesy of a little modern-day magic we call GIF technology.

1. Samobor Castle // Samobor, Croatia

samobor castle
Samobor Castle in Samobor, Croatia
Budget Direct

The only remaining piece of the 13th-century castle built by Bohemia’s King Ottokar II is the base of the guard tower—the rest of the ruins are from an expansion that happened about 300 years later. It’s just a 10-minute walk from the Croatian city of Samobor, which bought the property in 1902.

2. Château Gaillard // Les Andelys, France

Château Gaillard in Les Andelys, France
Château Gaillard in Les Andelys, France
Budget Direct

King Richard I of England built Château Gaillard in just two years during the late 12th century as a fortress to protect the Duchy of Normandy, which belonged to England at the time, from French invasion. It didn’t last very long—France’s King Philip II captured it six years later.

3. Dunnottar Castle // Stonehaven, Scotland

Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven, Scotland
Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven, Scotland
Budget Direct

Dunnottar Castle overlooks the North Sea and is perhaps best known as the fortress that William Wallace (portrayed by Mel Gibson in 1995’s Braveheart) and Scottish forces won back from English occupation in 1297. Later, it became the place where the Scottish monarchy stored their crown jewels, which were smuggled to safety when Oliver Cromwell invaded during the 17th century.

4. Menlo Castle // Galway City, Ireland

Menlo Castle in Galway City, Ireland
Menlo Castle in Galway City, Ireland
Budget Direct

This ivy-covered Irish castle was built during the 16th century and all but destroyed in a fire in 1910. For those few centuries, it was home to the Blake family, English nobles who owned property all over the region.

5. Olsztyn Castle // Olsztyn, Poland

Olsztyn Castle in Olsztyn, Poland
Olsztyn Castle in Olsztyn, Poland
Budget Direct

The earliest known mention of Olsztyn Castle was in 1306, so we know it was constructed some time before then and expanded later that century by King Casimir III of Poland. It was severely damaged during wars with Sweden in the 17th and 18th centuries, but its highest tower—once a prison—still stands.

6. Spiš Castle // Spišské Podhradie, Slovakia

Spiš Castle in Spišské Podhradie, Slovakia
Spiš Castle in Spišské Podhradie, Slovakia
Budget Direct

Slovakia’s massive Spiš Castle was built in the 12th century to mark the boundary of the Hungarian kingdom and fell to ruin after a fire in 1780. However, 20th-century restoration efforts helped fortify the remaining rooms, and it was even used as a filming location for parts of 1996’s DragonHeart.

7. Poenari Castle // Valachia, Romania

Poenari Castle in Valachia, Romania
Poenari Castle in Valachia, Romania
Budget Direct

This 13th-century Romanian castle boasts one previous resident of some celebrity: Vlad the Impaler, or Vlad Dracula, who may have been an early influence for Bram Stoker’s vampire, Dracula. It also boasts a staggering 1480 stone steps, which you can still climb today.

[h/t Simply Savvy]

America’s 10 Most Hated Easter Candies

Peeps are all out of cluck when it comes to confectionery popularity contests.
Peeps are all out of cluck when it comes to confectionery popularity contests.
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Whether you celebrate Easter as a religious holiday or not, it’s an opportune time to welcome the sunny, flora-filled season of spring with a basket or two of your favorite candy. And when it comes to deciding which Easter-themed confections belong in that basket, people have pretty strong opinions.

This year, CandyStore.com surveyed more than 19,000 customers to find out which sugary treats are widely considered the worst. If you’re a traditionalist, this may come as a shock: Cadbury Creme Eggs, Peeps, and solid chocolate bunnies are the top three on the list, and generic jelly beans landed in the ninth spot. While Peeps have long been polarizing, it’s a little surprising that the other three classics have so few supporters. Based on some comments left by participants, it seems like people are just really particular about the distinctions between certain types of candy.

Generic jelly beans, for example, were deemed old and bland, but people adore gourmet jelly beans, which were the fifth most popular Easter candy. Similarly, people thought Cadbury Creme Eggs were messy and low-quality, while Cadbury Mini Eggs—which topped the list of best candies—were considered inexplicably delicious and even “addictive.” And many candy lovers prefer hollow chocolate bunnies to solid ones, which people explained were simply “too much.” One participant even likened solid bunnies to bricks.

candystore.com's worst easter candies
The pretty pastel shades of bunny corn don't seem to be fooling the large contingent of candy corn haters.
CandyStore.com

If there’s one undeniable takeaway from the list of worst candies, it’s that a large portion of the population isn’t keen on chewy marshmallow treats in general. The eighth spot went to Hot Tamales Peeps, and Brach’s Marshmallow Chicks & Rabbits—which one person christened “the zombie bunny catacomb statue candy”—sits at number six.

Take a look at the full list below, and read more enlightening (and entertaining) survey comments here.

  1. Cadbury Creme Eggs
  1. Peeps
  1. Solid chocolate bunnies
  1. Bunny Corn
  1. Marshmallow Chicks & Rabbits
  1. Chocolate crosses
  1. Twix Eggs
  1. Hot Tamales Peeps
  1. Generic jelly beans
  1. Fluffy Stuff Cotton Tails

[h/t CandyStore.com]

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