Today is Midsummer’s Eve, which – as an expat – always fills me with a sort of homesick melancholy. In Sweden, the Summer Solstice is a national holiday, whereas here it is a regular work day like any other. This is where Swedes celebrate the longest day of the year, after which darkness slowly starts to encroach on our existence again. The occasion is surrounded in lore and traditions which I would love to delve into more deeply some time. This year, I don’t have time to do more than tell you about one of the most common traditions.
Like other solstice and equinox nights, Midsummer Night’s Eve was thought to be where the lining separating the secular and the mystical worlds was at its thinnest, which meant it was prime time to foresee the future. In Sweden, this is the night that does not reach full darkness. As shadows gradually grow longer and finally give way to the blue light of dusk, girls and young women everywhere gather wildflowers to put under their pillows that night. By doing so, their dreams will show them the man they will marry. Not that I fully believe in this quaintly old-fashioned notion, but it really is a magical feeling to wade through the dewy grass in the blue-gray light of near darkness, and look for suitable flowers and herbs. The tradition dictates that you pick either 7 or 9 flowers for your bouquet.
So, to spite my urban American existence, I took a walk in a park that borders the reasonably unkempt railroad tracks here in our fair city, to get my wildflower fix. To my delight, I found quite a few. More even than the prescribed 7 or 9 – especially if you count the grasses and the thistles.