Midsommar and kräftskiva

The normally reserved Swedes celebrate summer in a big way. The biggest celebration of all is Midsommar, where people put up a maypole, sing and dance around it while imitating frogs, pigs, and violen playing, and just be merry in general.

I’ve never attended Midsommar celebration during my summer trips in Sweden, because we were there in August. I have, however, attended 2 such celebrations in Chicago area organized by local Swedish-Americans. That event is held yearly at Old Templar park in Geneva, Illinois, a far west suburb of Chicago. It was kind of fun, although I found it a bit strange the religious connotations the organizers brought both times I attended. For example, this summer, one pastor did a full sermon before things got started. If anything, the Swedish Midsommar is a pagan tradition and has nothing to do with Christianity. (The pastor’s message, however, was relevant, depending on your point of view at this particular holiday. He preached against drinking.) Here is a picture taken at Old Templar park:

Midsommar

Another Swedish summer tradition is crayfish party, usually in August. Friends would gather together, eat crayfish, drink vodka, wear an optional paper crayfish hat, sing, and have a good time. The crayfish are boiled, usually seasoned with salt and dill, and then served cold. Nowadays, it seems most of crayfish is imported, prepackaged and ready to eat, from China or Turkey. Thawing the package takes some time. People usually leave it in the sink under the faucet, and run cold water over it to speed up the thawing process.

I had crayfish for the first time while visiting relatives in Vasteras last year. I really enjoyed it. Here is a picture of it.

2005SwedishSummer1 033
In the above picture, I think I just arrived Sweden from the US, after being stranded at London Heathrow airport for a day because of BA’s labour troubles. I wore other people’s clothes because I didn’t have my luggage with me. I had to book a different flight from London to Stockholm, via Oslo, so that I wouldn’t miss a funeral I was supposed to go to. Fortunately, I did get my money back. In 2004, my BA flight was seriously delayed at Heathrow because of labour strike. Of course, there were alleged terrorist plots at Heathrow this year that caused massive delays. All of them happened in August. My advice: avoid British Airways and Heathrow in August if you can.

This summer, I was happy to discover that the IKEA store in Chicago sold crayfish, and it is from China! What a great combination! Below is the pack I bought.
Crayfish and Vodka, a Swedish tradition

Back of the package:

Crayfish

To top it off, the store also got the crayfish hat:
Crayfish hat

This is the feast after the the package is thawed and ready to eat.

The feast

I finished it all by myself, since my better half is a vegetarian and my son would not eat it. Too bad nobody was around to sing Helan går with me. I was told that you can join in even if you don’t know any Swedish, since everybody is drunk and wouldn’t be able to tell anyway.

For those who are interested, as far as I know, there are 2 places in Chicago that sell Swedish food: one is IKEA in Schaumburg, the other is Wikstrom’s Scandinavian Foods and Gifts in Chicago at 5247 North Clark Street, just north of Swedish-American museum.

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