by Aldo Ciummo
If you have the opportunity to travel in Sweden, one of the best moments is the most important day of Swedish summer , Midsummer: the traditions of the country come back with the sun. Leksand is at the centre of a place which is special indeed for the celebration at the end of June, because in the region of Dalarna some popular habits are much older, as well as the typical clothing of the longest day. If you arrive by train in Leksand, you can take a walk through the main street and two rows of houses you find yourself in a thriving downtown in ten minutes, realizing soon that the city is full of people from all over Sweden: the Midsommar here is a tradition that crosses the boundaries of the district, you meet people of Stockholm, Goteborg and smaller countries, not just the neighbours. The first thing you see is the green valley where a large crowd will gather to celebrate the evening of June 24. At the centre was prepared to lift the base and secure the traditional decorated tree.
Everybody repeats that everybody is hoping it won’t rain, but in fact the rains (which are not uncommon in this period), however, have always allowed the continuation of a festival where visitors are the first to be involved, because this event is first of all a clove of Sweden that can be found, some foreigners are totally enraptured by the images of the celebrations, as a Flemish photographer on the main bridge over the river Dalälven, a colleague that on this occasion tests with satisfaction the various objectives of his camera, while the boats arrive with wreaths or heart-shaped flowers.
Among the news and events that occur within a few hours on holidays in the Swedish province we dont’ neglect the people, but particularly spending time together you know the local traditions: however, there are real points of reference, on a territory that in addition to being a garden of the main cities, now is an important destination within the European north area, where many people like to meet again in environments similar in many respects, but that that have all the variety existing in different regions of Scandinavia during the holidays.
One of these sites, created to preserve the memory of local identity is the House of Culture of Leksand municipality, which contains a museum, a gallery, a collection of objects remaining from ancient times: the houses of culture, dependent on this are about ninety, as many different villages of Leksand, are called herbyydsarjar and are families gifts: the director of all these locations is Marie Folkesson, who traces the history of the institution: “this house of culture of Leksand town was built in 1985 and, I direct it from 2008; as early as 1300 we find the origins of the production of manufactured goods and textiles Flax area, where the tradition is older than the Midsummer celebrations in other parts of Sweden. And that’s why there are guides for tourists and cultural associations that we support.”.
Marie Folkesson explains that the industrial age in Sweden came later than in the rest of Europe, in Scandinavia, people used not buying many clothes and artifacts, produced in the continent and considered valuable: “today is a wonderful thing to be dressed in new with its products, created for the Midsommar. Traditionally the Maypole (or Midsommarstang Majstang), a traditional decorated tree, is raised, Glad Midsommar is the traditional greeting ”.
The traditions represented by manufactures, including textiles and metal objects, as we see them today, date back to the eighteen hundred: they were sold in a shop which began its activities in 1904, then in 1954 moved to a well known building in the center of Leksand. This is not a simple business: it is recognized instead as a museum run by the cultural association “Leksands Hemslojd”. The early customers were mostly Swedish (many of them from Stockholm). The railway arrived in the Insjon town around 1920, then the tourists continued on the boat. Now the trains arrives here.
Lena Hagman now directs the activities: ”for the character of the Hemslojd we are very involved in the celebrations on June 24th, this year there have been changes: the characters sailing with the boats that cross the river will stop on the side opposite to the one near the place where the party takes place, so many more people will be able to see the parade that goes on Leksand Bro (the bridge over the Dalälven river).” Also Kerstin Stenback carries on the activities of the shop-museum: “between fifty and seventy people are working for us in this area, today many customers are foreigners. Our city is twinned with the Japanese city of Tobetsu, near Sapporo in Hokkaido, next year we will celebrate the twenty-fifth year of collaboration”.
It may take a year to make these dresses, embroidered with silk.It can be seen on the night of Midosommar, all kinds of these traditional clothes: “begravnteis drakt”; (shroud traditional); “Brollops Drakt” (wedding dress): already in the afternoon in Leksand a few buildings are open as historic spaces, but the main event starts at around seven in the evening, when the boats arrive in the river Dalälven till the bridge, on which people meet to see the boats: After the boats have stopped at one side of the river opposite the shore closer to the plateau where the Majstang is prepared, the characters set down, follow the road to the bridge and cross it, then walk along the main road leading to the place of the main celebration.
This June 24 it is raining, but the groups and people who arrived in dribs and drabs throughout the day have umbrellas and transparent towels enough to stop without worrying in the green valley where it will be raised the Maypole, the characteristic decorated tree: a base has been prepared for this. The crowd is enormous, but people can find each other, some wearing pretty sporty clothes, but many in traditional dress, especially girls wearing garlands on their heads.
To open the festival in the middle of the mall are music groups of all kinds, playing overall the traditional songs, the Ida Sommarisa by Alma Lindens Movic, Midsommar Visa and Midsummer Denblomstertid nulcommer, everyone dance a little bit, especially around the base of the Maypole, because at the margins of the green valley you try to keep balances umbrellas and towels because the rain comes down heavily. The preparation of the feast of the Maypole is a little changed, now you can dance a mix of salsa and rumba that the younger people like. When it comes time to fix the traditional tree, however, voice is left to the speaker, which makes the group under the Maypole, as it makes you lift a weight, with childrens’ echo around the group. The rest of the festival is all over the town, people have waited and marched all day and meet to have a beer and a dish together, and then have another drink together in many locals of Leksand, to find themselves on the road again and with friends, because Midsommer goes on almost until morning.
Foto © Aldo Ciummo