An atmosphere akin to Mediterranean joie de vivre takes over Sweden during the midsummer solstice (the weekend closest to June 24), when maypoles are erected as giant fertility symbols in gardens and parks across the country. Midsummer is not a time for staying in towns – everyone heads to the countryside and coasts, with Dalarna, the island of Öland and the shores of the Bohuslän coast being just a few of the most popular spots. Aided in no small part by copious quantities of alcohol, the population’s national characteristics of reserve and restraint dissolve over midsummer weekend. Long trestle tables draped in white cloths and sagging under the weight of multiple varieties of herring, potatoes with dill and gallons of akvavit are set up outside, and parties go on through the light night with dancing to the strains of accordions and fiddles.

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