Our Maine Street's Aroostook Issue 12 : Spring 2012 - Page 43

New Sweden’s Midsommar by Carolyn M. Hildebrand Photos by William L. Duncan Sunshine, cascading shades of purple, pink, blue and white lupines, birch boughs and tamarack bring to mind the Swedish celebration of “Midsommar,” brought with the Swedes in 1870 who settled in New Sweden, Maine, as well as many other areas throughout the USA. June 21st, the longest day of the year, the summer solstice, provides a symbol of hope in the midst of the cold, dark winter. The first Midsommar celebration in New Sweden was held on June 23, 1871, with a Majstang or Midsummer pole of two crossbars decorated with flowers, leaves and garlands, as well as with the American and Swedish flags. This celebration has taken place in past years at the First Baptist Church and at Gustaf Adolph Lutheran Church. For about the last 25 years, Midsummer has been celebrated at the New Sweden Museum and Thomas Park. In centuries long gone, Midsommar was celebrated as a fertility festival where it was customary in Sweden to light fires around the property on Midsummer Eve to ward off evil spirits and assure the property owner of good crops. The summer solstice celebration began in pre-Christian times and was a day when the spirits of nature joined the human community to celebrate the long days of summer. Midsommar is now a celebration of new beginnings, long days, family reunions, good food, Swedish costumes and preserving the music, dance and customs of our hardy Swedish founders. In 1902, Clarence Pullen wrote for the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad Company an article entitled, “In Fair Aroostook, Where Acadia and Scandinavia’s Subtle Touch Turned a Wilderness Into a Land of Plenty.” Here he stated that “Midsummer, which is June 22, is next to Christmas, the most merry festival. There are green boughs and festoons of evergreens and wild flowers about the farmhouse verandas and gateways in joy of the day, and a public celebration with music and song and oratory and a collation is a customary feature of the occasion. In all the joyousness of these festivals the elderly people are sharers, for the fondness of the old for the young is a marked and pleasing trait of the Swedish character.” This year, New Sweden’s Midsommar Festival will be held June 22, 23 and 24. Activities will begin on Friday at 9:00 a.m. with volunteers meeting at the New Sweden Museum to gather lupines and other wildflowers on Carlstrom Hill, Rt. 161 overlooking Madawaska Lake. Waterproof shoes and garden clippers are recommended! The New Sweden Museum will be open for visitors from 12-4. A highlight of this year’s event will be 26 members of a Swedish folk dance group from Orust, Sweden. The costumed dancers and musicians will spend the Midsommar weekend performing and teaching the traditional Swedish dances to willing participants. The Orust dancers will first be seen on Friday at 6 p,m. at the Stockholm American Legion Swedish meatball supper and dance. Saturday’s events usually begin with SPRING 2012 43