Midsummer magic, 24 hours in sunlight

The traditions, foods, rituals and pure pleasure of summertime, and where to celebrate them.

Midsummer: a time so powerful and vital to our evolution it was immortalised by Shakespeare and continues to be celebrated by cultures throughout the world. It’s easy to take for granted the magic that is our seasonal biorhythm.

But when you think about it, it really is truly special that our Earth is tilted to create a longest day and a longest night. And when you think about all the joy that summer gives us, that twist of physics and fate really does give us a lot.

Of course, no one enjoys summer – and especially midsummer – as much as the Scandinavian population. For three months of the year, the sun shines so brightly and so long that you can’t help but feel more joyful, more carefree. And on the big day itself? 24 hours of sunshine, and a whole host of celebrations.

Midsummer traditions from around the world

Sweden
Schools and workplaces close so that huge day-long gatherings can take place, typically featuring a big lunch of traditional dishes. There’s usually quite a bit of vodka drinking and singing, plus dancing around a maypole later in the day. The day after midsummer, summer holidays begin, and families travel to summerhouses for the rest of the season.

Denmark & Norway
Celebrations typically take place the evening before midsummer’s day. In years gone by, herbs would be gathered for medicinal use throughout the year, thought to be more potent when harvested at midsummer. Gatherings often include bonfires and rituals that symbolise life in full bloom.

Finland
Usually scheduled for the Friday evening closest to midsummer, celebrations include bonfires and outdoor feasts by the lakes, and go on through the night. Like their Swedish neighbours, families typically leave for their summer holidays the following day.

Italy
Like many European countries (including Spain and Portugal), midsummer is combined with St John the Baptist’s Day (or San Giovanni to the Italians). Sometimes lasting days, the mini festival includes street markets, fireworks and dinners that last long into the night.

Where to celebrate midsummer

Whether you head to Sweden or stay closer to home, there are some wonderful trips to take around midsummer. Here are some of our favourite travel options:

The Swedish countryside
If you’re lucky enough to have Swedish friends, try to get an invite to their celebrations. Lots of hotels in the countryside will put on celebrations, and Dalarna is one of the most beautiful areas to visit. Otherwise, head to public parks and gardens in smaller towns, like Leksand, Rättvik or Mora.

Stockholm
While most Stockholm residents will aim to leave the city for rural escapes at midsummer, there are some pretty impressive parties to discover! Head to Skansen, the open-air museum, for the biggest city celebration, or head out to the archipelago at Djurönäset Conference & Hotel for a traditional Swedish midsummer lunch.

Cornwall
Our very own home! The Cornish traditional festival of Golowan includes Mazey Day, which coincides with midsummer. Expect bonfires, fireworks and a huge procession through Penzance on the closest Saturday to midsummer.

Sunrise in the UK 
One of the simplest ways to celebrate the summer solstice is to watch the sunrise on the morning of 24 June. Whether you head to Stonehenge or Amesbury, or a local hill or beach get a good view, and let the sunlight seep in. Primrose Hill in London is a popular spot in the capital.

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