Midsummer is the period of time around the summer solstice. Midsummer-related holidays, traditions and celebrations are found in Scandinavia, Northern Europe, Great Britain and elsewhere. Midsummer's eve is in Sweden and Finland considered the greatest festival of the year, comparable only with Walpurgis Night, Christmas Eve, and New Year's Eve. Midsummer is also a Neopagan holiday.
In Denmark the celebration is called Sankthans aften (St. John's Eve). It takes place on the evening before the summer solstice. Bonfires on the beach, speeches and songs are traditional, although bonfires are built in many other places, where beaches may not be closeby (on the shores of lakes and other waterways, parks, etc.). Tradition also includes the burning of a cloth witch on top of the bonfire, which sends her to Bloksbjerg, a mountain in the Harz region of Germany.
In Sweden, Midsummer's Eve and Midsummer's Day is moved to the third Friday and Saturday of June. The main celebrations takes place on the Friday, the traditional events include raising and dancing around a huge phallic maypole. Before the maypole is raised, greens and flowers are collected and used to cover, to "may", the entire pole.
Raising and dancing around a maypole is primarily an activity which attracts families, even though it traditionally is a fertility ritual. Dancing around the pole is often accompanied by traditional music and the wearing of traditional folk costumes. The year's first potatoes, pickled herring, sour cream, and possibly the first strawberries of the season are on the menu.
Youngsters, not yet responsible for any family, demonstrate their eagerness to get one by intense procreation, dancing and drinking (often in the reversed order).
In Finland the midsummer holiday is a notable occasion for drunkenness and revels. As in Sweden, maypoles and pickled herring is the hallmark of the coastal areas, where also the Finland-Swedish language and culture have its stronghold. In the rest of Finland, bonefires take the place of the maypole, and smoked fish from the nearby lake is eaten instead of pickled herring, but then the differences end. Midsummer is in Finland celebrated at least as intencely as in Sweden.
Many people get indecently drunk and happy. The statistics of the number of men drowned with their zipper open is morbidly recounted every year. Also statistics of stabbing demonstrates a peak for this weekend.
In Britain from the thirteenth century Midsummer was celebrated on Midsummer Eve (St. John's Eve, June 23) and St. Peter's Eve (June 28) with the lighting of bonfires, feasting and merrymaking. The tradition largely fell to the Reformation, but persisted in rural areas up until the nineteenth century before petering out.
The NYC Swedish Midsummer celebrations in Battery Park, New York City, attracts some 3,000-5,000 people annually, which makes it one of the largest celebrations after the ones held in Leksand and at the Skansen Park in Stockholm.
This holiday is also sometimes called Litha. Its use as the name for this holiday may trace back to its appearance in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Prior to that, "Litha" appears to refer to the entire summer season.