Summer Solstice in New York

Culture

6/19/17

 

Daughter of  a former diplomat with the Swedish Foreign Service, Angelica Kennedy moved to NY when her father was assigned to the Swedish Consulate of NYC. She instantly fell in love with the city. Angelica landed at the Roger Smith where she started her career in Tourism and Hospitality, working in various departments from 2000-2006. She recently returned as a part-time Manager and Fire Safety Director. Almost 18 years later, she now considers herself a New Yorker and a Swede with equal love and affection.

We caught up with Angelica to talk about the traditional Swedish Summer Solstice celebrations.

 

RS: Hi Angelica, Thank you for chatting with us! We’re glad to have you back! First things first, what is summer solstice?

AK: Summer Solstice is the day that marks two events – the longest day and shortest night of the year, and also the first official day of summer. It carries with it both the science behind light and dark, but also the traditions, myths, and cultural celebrations  that honor light and summer.

Why is summer solstice particularly important to Swedes?

The week of Summer Solstice is when we celebrate one of our largest holidays, called Midsummer, or Midsommar in Swedish. It is always celebrated the Friday closest to summer solstice each year. In some parts of Northern Sweden, the sun doesn´t set at all during this time of the year, and we experience a gift from nature – the midnight sun.

During midsummer celebrations, we get together and cook and eat traditional food (often involving seafood, such as herring, salmon, and hand-peeled baby shrimp, as well as summer new potatoes, often from our own gardens. Dessert is most often the first crop of summer strawberries. As a side note, Sweden is famous for having the sweetest strawberries in the world, because the long days with lots of light maximize the natural sugars produced during the ripening process). We also build a maypole, which is a large cross, with leaves and flowers tied around it. Women and children will also wear wreaths in their hair, most often handmade with real branches, leaves and flowers, just like the maypole. Then we gather around the maypole, and sing summer songs. Many of them are steeped in long tradition, and some of them are silly. For example, there is one about little frogs, and their lack of ears and tails. It comes with a silly dance and gestures. In some celebrations, unmarried women will also go out and pick 7 different species of flower before they go to bed. According to tradition, once she picks the first flower, she is not allowed to speak. Once she has picked all seven, she is supposed to place them under her pillow. If she manages to keep her promise to stay silent from the first flower picked, until she falls asleep, the story goes that she will dream of the man she is supposed to marry.

What traditions do you partake in and how are you celebrating this year?

On the occasions that I am actually in Sweden during midsummer, I partake in all of the above. When I was a little girl, my aunt and I used to pick the 7 flowers, and she always made a big deal of going at the end of the night, in the dusky light, and giggling the whole time. The following morning, I couldn´t wait to wake her to share our dreams, and whether we actually dreamt of anyone remotely resembling a suitor.

Living in New York makes it more challenging, but the Swedish Consulate always puts on a fantastic midsummer party down at Robert Wagner park, with food, wreath making, and dancing and singing around the maypole. It´s a wonderful glimpse into this beautiful holiday, but be forewarned – it gets crowded! 🙂 Hope to see you there!

To commemorate Summer Solstice, on Wednesday June 21st, the Roger Smith team is joining the Times Square Alliance for Mind Over Madness mass participation yoga class.

We’re excited and looking forward to  seeing all of our fellow yogis.

 

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