Celebrating Swedish Midsummer with good friends…and a few frogs
What do frogs and Swedish Midsummer have in common? We would say a lot more than you might think. But let’s make it clear from the start. We are not talking about that type of frog that turns into a handsome prince after you give him a kiss. Neither are we talking about that old traditional song called “Små grodorna” (The Little Frogs) that children used to sing while doing funny imitations of frogs around the Midsummer pole. No, it’s something else we have in mind – real frogs – in danger of extinction.
Today we are in a historic place with a long tradition of organizing spectacular Midsummer celebrations for the public. It’s called Nääs, a beautifully preserved 19th century estate that offers bed and breakfast, shops, restaurants, cafes, art galleries, horseback riding, etc. It is situated in Tollered, about 30 km east of Gothenburg.
Midsummer is when the longest day of the year is being celebrated and it’s a big event and a national holiday in Sweden. To sum it up, basically everybody is eating pickled herring, boiled fresh potatoes, strawberries and washes it down with some (or plenty of) beer and snaps. Since Midsummer involves tons of outdoor activities and dining in the open air, we are anxiously looking at the weather forecast and crossing our fingers that there will be no rain today. Unfortunately, the sky looks pretty gloomy. Still, a lot of people have arrived to have a picnic, listen to music and dance around the Midsummer pole.
There are plenty of old myths associated with Midsummer that might seem strange today. For example, on this particular night, women used to go out and pick seven different kinds of flowers and put them under the pillow. If this was done in complete silence, her future loved one would show up in her dreams. Another old myth is that one can roll around naked in the grass to avoid getting sick. This is not a widespread, contemporary tradition so don’t expect to see this happen (unless there is a lot of alcohol involved).
But let’s go back to the initial question. What do frogs and Swedish Midsummer have in common (except for that Little Frogs song)? Well, to our surprise, in the vicinity of Nääs, there are some unique man-made culverts under the road, used by frogs and toads who otherwise would be at a high risk getting killed by passing cars (or end up eye-to-eye with a curious dog like Sam). Many amphibians are endangered so this practical construction helps them to survive.
While carefully looking around to see if we can find any frogs in the nearby ditch, the rain suddenly starts pouring down. Behind us, on the lawn where the Midsummer celebration takes place, everybody is probably running for cover. The rain definitely put an end to the celebration this year, although we are pretty sure, for the frogs in the culverts, the party has just started.
NB. We were actually not celebrating Midsummer or looking after frogs at Nääs this year (it was last year). But hey, we never let the facts stand in the way of a good story! Right?