WHILE none of the Scandinavian countries have an official religion, summer is worshipped in the region as if it is one.
Scandinavians are used to the long, murky winters of the Nordic noir media genre. Danes even joke that the Danish year has 16 months, three of which are November. So, it is no surprise that when summer finally arrives, they know how to make the most of it!
Here are five ways you can inject some Scandinavia into your summer this year, helping you to embrace the languid days, long drowsy evenings, and even find some hygge this summer. Featuring the photography of Stockholm based photographer, Lars Wästfelt.
1. Celebrate Midsummer
One of the particularities of summer up in Scandinavia is its especially long evenings. A friend of mine was recently on holiday in Oslo, reading her book one evening in the light coming through her window, when she suddenly realised it was three thirty am and still hadn’t got dark!
In Sweden, Midsummer Eve is celebrated on 21 June. The day begins with the picking of wildflowers to make wreaths. In the evening, a maypole is raised, decorated with the wreaths and traditional ring-dances ensue. This celebration is also accompanied by the enjoyment of traditional foods to mark the occasion.
Why not bake a jordgubbstårta? Jordgubbstårta is a traditional strawberry cake made with the first strawberries of the season. It’s basically a sponge cake with whipped cream and as many strawberries as you can fit crammed on top – here’s the recipe!
2. Go on a cabin trip
Roughly 50% of Norwegian’s have access to a hytte (cabin) and cabin trips are a huge tradition all over Scandinavia. In the summer months, huge swathes of Norwegians, Swedes and Danes disappear into the beautiful wilderness: the fjords of Norway; the forests and lakes of Sweden and the islands of Denmark, in search of freedom and simplicity. The idea is to go back to basics, harking back to times when life was simpler. Many cabins don’t even have electricity or running water. The focus instead is on time spent together. Imagine the scene… holed up with just your closest friends in your cabin, sitting by an open fire after a long day spent walking, while toasting marshmallows and taking it in turns to tell stories – what could be more hygge?
3. Find some summer hygge
While hygge (or cosiness) is typically associated with the winter months, it can also be cultivated in summer. Hygge isn’t only about tea lights, woollen jumpers and hot chocolate. It’s about a feeling of ease and of being in the moment. Why not …
- Go hiking with friends (just don’t let the conversation get too heavy, keep it light).
- Host an outdoor film screening – what could be cosier than sitting next to a friend with a warm bucket of popcorn in your lap? I’m thinking a rom com.
- Get up early. There’s just something so hygge about the blue light of dawn. Curl up in a comfy chair by the window, perhaps even light a candle.
- Have a picnic. If you want to make it extra scandi then instead of normal sandwiches, make the far less practical Danish open sandwich or Smørrebrød. Classic toppings include curried herrings and pickled red onion on buttered rye bread.
One way to make these activities even more hygge is to turn them into traditions. Traditions are hyggelig because they remind you of previous good times spent with loved ones. For example, make it a ritual to always have a movie night on Midsummer Eve, or bake a strawberry sponge each time the berries come into season.
4. Wild swimming
Scandinavians are certainly not afraid of the cold. During the winter I spent in Copenhagen, it wasn’t unusual to see people swimming in the city’s harbours.
While I wouldn’t blame you for not joining this crazy tradition in winter, there’s nothing more liberating or enlivening than a cool swim on a hot summer’s day. In Stockholm, it’s even possible to take a swimming tour of the city and in Copenhagen, the government has declared the harbour waters clean enough for swimming. There are even architecturally impressive harbour baths dotted around the city.
5. Get on your bike
Half of all commuters in Copenhagen travel to work by bike, rain or shine. In ‘The Year Of Living Danishly’ journalist Helen Russel explains how this activity is estimated to save the city £20 million a year in avoided air pollution, accidents and congestion. Not only this, but it is also great for the city dwellers themselves. Thirty minutes of daily cycling boosts life expectancy by an average of fourteen months and also improves mental wellbeing – it’s no wonder the Danes are the happiest people in the world. The sun is shining – there’s no excuse now!
– Rebecca Appleton
All other photos by Lars Wästfelt.