Celebrating midsummer traditions at Scandinavian Club
With flowers adorning their hair and accordion music in the air, members and friends of the Scandinavian Club on Saturday celebrated their traditional Midsummer Festival.
At its heart, the midsummer event featured the decoration of a maypole and dancing to the accompaniment of accordion music played by Wivan Sundman. Celebrants at the club's South Pine Creek headquarters also enjoyed grilled food, cold drinks and a tag sale.
Wivan Sundman, the mother of club President Eric Gunnar Sundman, said, "This annual celebration marks the midsummer period in Sweden when the sun is above the horizon constantly from May 15 to July 15 ... During that time, Swedes pull down dark shades in their homes when it is time to sleep."
Customs of the observance, she said, include "pick seven different flowers and put them under your pillow, and when you go to sleep, you dream about your loved one.
"We also dance around a maypole in traditional clothing and sing many traditional songs," she added. "For food, we serve strawberries and cakes made with strawberries, small potatoes and a smorgasbord of cheese, meats and crackers."
The club matriarch believes "it is important to preserve traditions, especially amongst America-born Swedes, particularly children."
Ethel Thomas of Fairfield, a longtime member of the Scandinavian Club, recounted past midsummer celebrations but mourned waning interest in tradition. "I was born in Sweden, but have been here 50 years, and have been a member of the club since 1960," she said. "It's a beautiful place. I remember when there was just a small clubhouse here and an outdoor dance floor just for the midsummer fest. Our older members cooked and were very participatory. These days, people don't seem to have the time because of their families and business."
Thomas shared Wivan Sundman's view about preserving traditions. "In Sweden, all the seasons are very important and we mark them with festivities and decorations."
Kimmo Piironen of Guilford was attending his first misdsummer event at the Fairfield club. "I was born and raised in Finland, moved to Boston then California, and just moved to Connecticut a couple of months ago," he said.
"I love this area and have become interested in the club and its programs," Piironen added. "I was very much involved in the past with Scandinavian and Finnish social groups and clubs, and want to continue integrating with the Scandinavian Clubs in Connecticut. This fest is great fun, with all the kids playing. It's what it's all about -- knowing where you're from."