Midsommar boogie

Posted from Halmstad, Halland County, Sweden.

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There’s probably no place better in the world to be than in Sweden for Midsommar. To the Swedes this holiday, which lies in and around the summer solstice, is more important than Christmas and New Years. At least that’s the gist I got. People have the day off work. There’s traditional feasts, songs and games. There’s also a tree, well, a pole. Friends and family even try to negotiate who is going where – much like the hub-bub of Christmas Day in Canada. And let us not forget about the party.

I was in Halmstad at a boogie for Midsommar. The Halmstab Fallskärmsklubb was hosting a PAC 750XL and the corresponding circus that tends to follow a turbine aircraft. The boogie was five days long and ended on Midsommar eve, coincidentally this year, June 21.

I’ll get around to the boogie at the end of the post, but let’s start with Midsommar Eve. Around 3 p.m. jumping ended and people began to drink. We’d been doing a lot of that all week, as one does at a boogie, but today jumping ended early to ensure a proper celebration. After people were well on their way to getting drunk the games began. They divided us all (those who wanted to participate) into four teams and then explained the first game. One had to run to a stick about 15m away, do 15 turns around it with their head in the center, get into a plastic bag and hop back to the finish line, where they had to toss a strawberry marshmallow drop into another team-member’s mouth (about 3m away) before the next person could go. Is that all? Surprisingly, no one threw up.

Ah, the games. What fun they were.

Ah, the games. What fun they were.

For the second game they began to partner us up and started taping two legs together and two arms together. Think three-legged race. I’m not quite sure what they had in mind, but it started to rain and we all made our way inside. Think Bambi walking on ice. It was a graceful parade.

Once inside they had us tie balloons to our ankles (still tied to our partners) and then run around the hangar trying to pop each other’s balloons. My team lost quickly. Which was fine. I needed a beer.

CASE scrambles.

CASE scrambles.

A note on beer rules in Sweden. In the Americas when someone owes a case they usually put it in the beer fridge for people to grab at their will at the end of the day, or they bring it to the bonfire in a casual fashion, like it’s no big deal. It’s a bit more serious here. When someone owes a case they try to find a difficult time and location, like through a small door, outside, in the rain, when half the DZ is tied to someone else. Then they yell CASE and watch the insanity unfold. I think in Canada and the US people are worried they will be seen as too eager if they run for free beer. Not so here. This is a test of skill and speed – with a sweet reward.

Following games came the food. Pickled herring, sour cream and chives. New potatoes. Mustard herring. Strawberries. These are traditional. I sat next to a Swede who could guide me through some of these new foods – and basically, he just filled my plate. We also had some ribs, bread, brie and meatballs. People sang some traditional drinking songs, but I really can’t tell you what they were about. I don’t speak Swedish.

The family dinner.

The family dinner.

Following dinner was more drinking and then songs and dancing around the maypole. This was great. I was dragged out to the field and we all held hands whilst we danced around the phallic-looking thing. I didn’t understand a word, but it was fun. Then came the lighter fluid and in true skydiver-fashion it was lit on fire. I’m told this is not traditional, but from my standpoint it seemed about right.

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Later that evening we all went to a nightclub and danced the night away.

The days preceding … the boogie.

Beach barbecue!!

Beach barbecue!!

Loads went up everyday, which was kind of unusual for Sweden. Apparently summer is the time for rain and cold. Hah! There were angle-flying loads, beach jumps and student jumps. A whole mess of tandems came out to experience the altitude a PAC 750XL can give (compared to the DZ’s usual Cessna 206.)

The fire wasn't quite big enough yet.

The fire wasn’t quite big enough yet.

There were bonfires almost every evening, something I have missed enormously on my travels. And most people cooked their dinners over the open fires, as most people were sleeping on site. And, of course, it’s easy to lose track of time when the sun sets at 11 p.m. We stopped jumping at 8 p.m. each day as a rule.

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One evening a Mexican party was thrown in the hangar, complete with tacos, piñata, moustaches and tequila. That night gets blurry.

Another evening after beach-jumps there was a barbecue on the beach. Technically, you can’t start a fire on the beach, so they bought a bunch of single-use grills to cook sausages and other meat on. I’ve eaten a lot of sausages here in Sweden. (Get your heads out of the gutter.)

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But the bunkbeds were full. The tenting area was well occupied and everyone seemed to have a good time. No one got seriously hurt and the local newspaper did a good write-up for the club, giving them front page.

The main thing to all of this, though is this – If you ever have the chance to experience Midsommar in Sweden, do it! Especially if you can be around a large group of people who enjoy fun and games and don’t let tradition go to waste.

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