Doll, there’s no place like home.
Skål, doll, and welcome to our Scandinavian midsummer’s eve party otherwise known in the Nordic countries as Sankthansaften or St. Hans Day. Celebrated on or around June 23 to mark the summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year, this party has been going strong since Viking times. Festivities include bonfires on the beach, raucous picnics, outdoor dinner parties, traditional drinking songs, and dancing the night away in the evening mist. The bonfires, natch, are lit to protect against evil spirits, which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southward again. Danes, Swedes, Norwegians and Finns are gracious hosts who thrive on celebrations, so expect to let your hair down at one of these parties, darlin’.
To throw your own Scandinavian midsummer’s eve party, serve pickled herring and small, succulent North Sea shrimp on open-faced sandwiches and boiled new potatoes with fresh dill, soured cream and chives. Follow with grilled salmon. For dessert, serve the first strawberries of summer with cream.
The traditional accompaniment is cold beer and schnapps. The schnapps or aquavit must be kept very cold so a decorative ice mold will do the trick. Glasses should be chilled as well. Be warned: Scandinavians like to toast frequently and drinking songs get racier as the night goes on.
Scandinavians take candles very seriously, so decorate your tabletop with an abundance of them. Flowers are also important. In Sweden, flower wreathes and maypole dances are part of the tradition. Custom has it the gals pick seven different species of flowers, lay them under their pillow and then dream of their future husband. For a twist on the tradition, we like to put seven different kinds of flowers on the table, each in its own vase.
Paper cutout ornaments are an old Danish tradition. We like to pay tribute to the party with whimsical cutout place cards. Below are some ideas for your midsummer’s eve party table. All are Scandinavian made. Go ahead, doll. Find your inner dancing queen and say a wholehearted “skål” when clinking glasses, always making eye contact when you do.
Popular Scandinavian tabletop products include these votive holders, these art glass serving bowls, this festivel dinnerware, butterfly place cards, stainless steel flatware, a nature-inspired table runner from Kippan of Sweden, white linen napkins, beer glasses from this Nordic glassmaker, these vases, and these colorful schnapps glasses.
Top photo: Swedish actress, Ingrid Bergman
Quote: Inspired by The Wizard of Oz, 1939