Swedish Midsummer – The Frog Dance and Biggest Maypole in the World

What is Swedish Midsummer and where can you celebrate it?

You’ve danced like a queen to Abba. You probably own a Billy bookcase from Ikea. But there’s something else distinctly Swedish which you might not be so familiar with. That my friends is Midsommar (or Midsummer in English). For Swede’s, this public holiday plays second fiddle (and fiddles are indeed played) only to Christmas. But what is it all about?
Sweden Midsummer Maypole
Going back over 1,000 years, Midsummer originates from pagan solstice festivals. Yet, so much has been added over time, that the celebrations here have become distinctly Swedish.
 
Midsummer’s day (the solstice) is officially 21st June. But this is a national holiday, and the prime time to party is the weekend! The Swede’s don’t want to have Midsummer in the middle of the week.
Sweden Midsummer Folk Musicians
This means Swedish Midsummer is formally held on the Saturday between 20th – 26th June. Midsummer’s Eve is when the big festivities take place. By Friday everyone is off work and heading to the countryside. Stockholm turns into a ghost town!

Before venturing out to the big event in their region, families and friends get together for a feast, washed down with lots of alcoholCelebrations take place across the whole country and we headed for the tiny village of Insjön, in the Dalarna region.

Sweden Midsummer Folk Dancers
Around 15:00 as we walked to the local church to see families and friends were gathering. Dancers and fiddlers in traditional folk costume started to lead them in procession.
The maypole needed erecting (it is a fertility symbol after all) and lay in the centre of the churchyard. Women came into the crowd to gather up the strongest and most willing men. I wasn’t gathered, so clearly didn’t look like a strong and willing man. It’s for the best I didn’t volunteer my services, as it was much more entertaining to watch from afar.
Sweden Midsummer Maypole
We watched an uncoordinated group of men fumble and try to erect the maypole. An alpha male emerged and directed everyone into position (it was quite amusing). A good 40 minutes later, after many struggles, the maypole finally stood in position.

The Frog Dance...

A huge cheer burst from the crowd and then it was time for everyone to dance. Not any dance, this was Små grodorna, THE FROG DANCE! I know the funky chicken, but this one has never made its way overseas. The words go something like this:
 
The little frogs, the little frogs are funny to observe.
 
No ears, no ears, no tails do they possess.
 
Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack
Everyone is up on their feet circling the maypole. Flicking fingers above their heads to show the lack of frogs ears. Shaking their hands where a tail would be and then jumping up and down as they quack along.
 
It looks as fun and crazy as it sounds!
Sweden Midsummer Leksand Sammilsdal
Some history on the biggest Midsummer party in Sweden
This all took place in Insjön which is a very small village. Things are a thousand times bigger in nearby Leksand. That’s where the biggest Midsummer celebration in Sweden takes place!
Sweden Midsummer Leksand Boats
Parking near Leksand centre, we walked to the bridge over the river. At 19:00 boats carrying locals in traditional costume sail in to town. Departing at the quay, they process down to Sammilsdal. Here, at 19:30, the biggest maypole raising ceremony known to man takes place. Thousands and thousands of people had gathered to witness the spectacle!
Sweden Midsummer Leksand
Sweden Midsummer Leksand
The initial excitement fades after it takes an hour to erect the biggest maypole in the world!
The flag pole took longer to erect than in Insjön. It also rained (as is the Midsummer tradition). But it was all worth the it to see the Frog Dance. Just check this out…

Where should I celebrate Swedish Midsummer?

If you can, get out of Stockholm and head to the countryside. Leksand and Insjön are in the Dalarna region. Surrounded by lakes and trees, it’s the most popular area to celebrate Swedish Midsummer. Big isn’t always best though and we found the intimate setting of Insjön to be less touristy. 

Both areas are within 20 minutes of each other though, so you can easily experience both.

This link will show you the Midsummer schedule for each village.

The below map shows the distance from Stockholm, so hire a car and head to the countryside!

How much does Swedish Midsummer cost?

All the outdoor events and free and bring people together. There’s no need to spend anything if you don’t want to.

You’ll need a place to stay though and for 700 SEK we can recommend Vintergatans Rum. It’s immaculately kept, has a homely feel, kitchen, parking and a helpful owner.

How long do I need to celebrate Swedish Midsummer?

You’ll need a full day to see the celebrations. Make sure you’re in the area a little after midday and you won’t miss out.

If you get friendly with the locals and end up at a party, you might want the day after to recover!

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