The last article discussed traditional festivities on St. John's Eve. This one is about the celebration of St. John's Day itself:
St. John's Day in Sweden
This festival traditionally honored the Precursor and welcomed the Summer season with prayers to God for a bountiful harvest. Today called Midsummer, it is currently celebrated on the Friday closest to June 20th, and has become highly secularized since Sweden is no longer a Catholic nation. But elements tracing back to the Age of Faith still remain in the modern celebration.
Flowers are an important aspect of the Midsummer festival. Girls and women will weave wreaths of flowers (Midsommarkrans) to wear in their hair for the day. Wreaths or bouquets are traditionally made with (seven or nine) different types of wildflowers. Homes are similarly decorated: A flower wreath may be hung from the ceiling to bring blessing to the house and a pair of young birch branches put at the front door. Most people wear lovely summer clothes for the celebration, or traditional Swedish garments.
Family and friends get together and feast on pickled herring, boiled potatoes, sour cream, crisp bread, beer and schnapps, followed by strawberries or fresh fruit for dessert. After the meal, people dance around a Maypole made of birch branches and covered with flowers. They sing traditional songs, play games and continue celebrating into the next day (the sun doesn't set in Scandinavia at this time of year!). Huge crosses called "Midsommarstoeng" are also constructed, like the Maypole, from birch branches and covered with leaves and flowers. A flower wreath may be hung on both sides of the cross, from the horizontal beam (Here's a page with a photo).
If a Catholic family wishes to adopt this celebration, they can add prayers to St. John the Baptizer and perhaps pray for the return of Sweden to the Catholic Faith. The following is an excerpt from the book My Nameday, Come for Dessert, containing suggested family prayers for St. John's Day:
Family prayers on the feast itself.
Father: This child is great before God for the hand of the Lord is with him.
All: The Lord has called me from the womb; from my mother's breasts He has been mindful of my name.
Father: From the writings of St. Augustine:
After that most holy day of our Lord's nativity and of our Lady's, we read of no other birthday which is celebrated by the Church save that of John the Baptist. For all other saints and elect of God we keep that day as a feast upon which, their trials completed and the world triumphantly overcome, they were borne from this present life to everlasting eternity. In their case it is the sum of their merits on their last day we honor. With John the Baptist the first day and the very beginnings of his existence were honored. The reason for this was that the Lord wished him to proclaim His coming, lest if He came suddenly and unawares, men might not recognize Him.
Mother: He will usher in the advent of the Lord in the spirit and power of an Elias, preparing for Him a people fit to receive Him.
All: John is his name; many will rejoice at his birth.
Father: Let us pray. O God, this day you have made honorable to us by the birth of John the Baptist. Call forth upon Your people the grace of spiritual joys and direct the souls of all Your faithful into the way of eternal salvation. Through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen. Christ conquers, Christ reigns!
From the book My Nameday, Come for Dessert (Warning: This links to a text of the entire book online, and it is LONG!)
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