How to throw a Swedish Midsommar party

Photo: Per Bifrost/

Midsommar, midsummer, is one of the biggest holidays in Sweden without being an actual holiday in our calendars at all. Swedes believe strongly in de facto traditions, even the national anthem is one, so despite this, Midsommar is treated as an important full blown holiday. It’s celebrated on a Friday, midsommarafton, midsummer’s eve, at the end of June around the 20th. Invite your friends and family, organize your own Midsommar party! Here are a few easy tips on how to do it the right, but light, way.

The food

The Swedish traditional food for feasts is smörgåsbord, which basically is a Swedish buffet. It does imply a few must-haves though, and you can offer these essentials to your guests and add whatever you like to it to create a smörgåsbord of your own taste. Meatballs are obviously a must, together with potatoes (preferably new potatoes), boiled eggs, sour cream with chives, cured salmon and herring. If you have an IKEA nearby, you will definitely be able to get your hands on some proper Swedish herring. It’s also common to offer different types of cheese and cold cuts. If you don’t like fish, or if you’re vegetarian or vegan, that’s alright. A lot of Swedes are too, so you can still compose a smörgåsbord without the traditional essentials, if you have to. The web is full of inspiration to take from real Swedes.

But what’s for dessert you may ask? Gräddtårta of course! Whip out those tart cases, spread strawberry jam on one layer and vanilla custard on the second layer, cover the cake in whipped cream and decorate with fresh strawberries. This is one of the most classic cakes we’ve got in Sweden.

The booze

You could definitely leave this one out and have a non-alcoholic Midsommar. However, worth to note is that we drink a special kind of schnaps called akvavit, which is seasoned with different herbs or types of booze but must either contain caraway or dill seeds. To this, we sing special drinking songs called snapsvisor before taking a shot. You could of course replace these shots with something else. It wouldn’t be quite the same but at least it’s something. If you want to leave the booze out, you should still consider toasting with your friends by learning and singing these songs together. It’s a lot of fun! It is even common to hand out little booklets with the lyrics. The songs are usually based on melodies everyone knows. It’s a perfect opportunity to teach your friends some Swedish or why not make your own in your language? Don’t forget to say skål, when toasting.

The music

Midsommar is surely the festival of typical Swedish music all the way from traditional Scandinavian folk and dancing music to Swedish popular summer songs to dansband, which is a certain style with influences from 60’s popular music to American country. This is the most easiest bullet point on your checklist, since you can just fire up Spotify and run any midsummer’s playlist on there to get in the mood. Here are a few suggestions:

The flowers

Usually there is a maypole full of leaves and flowers to dance around (you’ll find the music for that in “Dans kring midsommarstången”), however if you don’t want to go all the way, at least consider making wreaths for you and your guests. Or why not make them together? It’s definitely one of those traditional things that will make your party a bit more authentic.
Here is how you can make your own:

The games

If you’ve checked all the points above you are all set, but if you’d like the party to last a little longer, why not play a few games with your guests? This is definitely not a must, and not necessarily something we do at midsummer, however it’s not uncommon to do something like this when throwing a Swedish summer party. Sometimes we bundle them into a femkamp, a pentathlon.

  • Stövelkastning (boot throwing) – Take a rubber boot and throw it backwards between your legs. The longest throw wins.
  • Dragkamp (rope pulling) – Have a rope and two contestants or teams on each side, pulling for kung och fosterland.
  • Säcklöpning (sack race) – Step into a potato sack (or garbage bag) and start jumping. First person to get to the finish line wins.
  • Äggstafett (egg relay race) – The contestants should balance an egg on a spoon in their mouth while racing around a parkour. Either the first participant crossing the finish line wins or has to transfer the spoon to the next team member.
  • Norsk fylla (Norwegian intoxication) – The participants needs to run to a big stick or baseball bat, place one end against their forhead and the other on the ground, then spin 10 times and try to run back.

There you go! Have a wonderful Midsommar and be sure to send me pictures. Tag them with #imsayingitinswedish or DM them to me. I’d love to see what you came up with. For that extra touch, be sure to fly the Swedish flag.