Like with most feast days, there are a number of dishes involved with Midsummer celebrations, the famous Swedish smörgåsbord. The Swedish tradition of eating herring as soon as a chance is given, is represented during these festivities as well, but then, as Convenor often responds to my drafts, most Swedish festivals seem like just an excuse to eat pickled herring. At midsummer they are served with sour cream, raw red onions and new potatoes that are usually seasoned with dill. Many people instead of herring choose smoked salmon. For dessert fresh strawberries with whipped cream or ice cream is the most traditional way to go. The meal is usually washed down with cold beer or Brännvin a kind of Scandanavian poitín.
The frog dance is an essential part of the Swedish celebration of St. John's Day. The song Små Grodorna is sung while the partygoers (usually small children) hop around the maypole in the style of frogs, singing along to the immortal lyrics 'Little frogs are funny to look at. They don't have ears or tails'. The Convenor told me to try really hard to find a Christian message in the frog dance. He came up with some really good ones like it being a sign of being prepared to stand up (or hop up) for the Christian Faith or that it is a metaphor for St. John saying that He must increase and I must decrease. In the end, I couldn't find any deep meaning to the frog dance. It's just fun (but Christianity is fun sometimes too) but it has all the religious significance of the hour of Donald Duck on Christmas Day. Speaking of which, it can also be sung around the Christmas tree. There is also a version about little pigs who do have ears and tails.
Små grodorna, små grodorna är lustiga att se.
Ej öron, ej öron, ej svansar hava de.
Kou ack ack ack, kou ack ack ack!
Small frogs, small frogs are funny to see.
No ears, no ears, no tails have they.
Quack quack quack, quack quack quack!
A more sensible (and it is actually religious) song for St. John's Day is the Sommarpsalm or Summer Psalm, although it isn't actually a Psalm from the Bible. It was composed by Waldemar Ahlen, a 20th Century organist at St. Jakob's Church in Stockholm. He was a 'pioneer' of traditional musical styles and composed this piece based on an old traditional hymn. It is very popular at any time of year in concerts in Sweden but is particularly favoured for celebrations of St. John's Day.
A myth associated strongly with St. John's Eve is that of the näck (pronounced neck), who is a kind of siren spirit of the water who tries to lure people into water to drown by means of sweet singing. It is very like Sirens of Greek mythology and the Rhinemaidens of German myth, the except that the näck is potentially much friendlier and is known to be very partial to brännvin and will teach you the magical music if you drop some into the water! The exact nature of the näck isn't clear but it seems that it is not a Child of God and will never be so it is among the lost souls somehow. Water lilies are known in Swedish as näckrosor or näck roses.
A Swedish verse says “Midsommarnatten är inte lång, men den sätter många vaggor igång". That translates to "Midsummer night is not long but it sets many cradles to rock". Traditionally, unmarried girls pick seven (or sometimes nine) different types of flowers and place them under their pillow in the hope of dreaming of their future husband. It is quite like the tradition common in many places of putting some wedding cake under the pillow to dream of a future husband. It was believed that herbs picked at Midsummer were highly potent, and water drawn from springs on Midsummer could bring good health.