Scandinavian Midsummer celebration in DC

The maypole is carried in procession at the Midsummer celebration in D.C.

Photo: Marshall H. Cohen, A.S.A.
The maypole is carried in procession.

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

Tina Keune
Washington, D.C.

Midsummer has long been celebrated in different countries but it is particularly popular in the Scandinavian countries. It began as a pagan rite to mark the summer solstice. With the advent of Christianity, the holiday took on a more religious significance and became associated with the birth of St. John the Baptist. In Norway it is known as Sankt Hans Dag (St. John’s Day).

Several Nordic organizations in the Washington, DC area organized a combined Midsummer/Father’s Day celebration held at Carderock Park on the Potomac River in suburban Maryland on June 15. It was a perfect summer day.

Photo: Marshall H. Cohen, A.S.A. Skiing... on grass?

Photo: Marshall H. Cohen, A.S.A.
Skiing… on grass?

The festivities started with games for the children. The first one was ski racing on the grass. Who but the Scandinavians would have thought of skiing on grass?! The contestants formed teams (maximum four per ski) and then hobbled across the grass to reach the goal line. To avoid an embarrassing fall, teamwork was essential!

Then the children enjoyed participating in both individual and paired gunny sack races, and they were hilarious to watch. Adults and children participated in the egg toss, and they were all rather nervous as they carefully tossed and tried to catch the raw eggs at distances reaching twenty feet or more.

The first place winners in the three competitions were awarded ribbons. All contestants, however, received a prize. They were invited to choose from an assortment of Star Wars puzzles, kites, nerf balls, and more.

The raising of the decorated maypole at D.C.'s Midsummer celebration

Photo: Marshall H. Cohen, A.S.A.
The raising of the decorated maypole.

The Maypole was, of course, the centerpiece of the celebration. After it was beautifully decorated with greens and flowers, several individuals hoisted it onto their sturdy shoulders and began the grand procession around the park. Two very animated fiddlers took over the lead and a throng of jubilant Scandinavians followed.

At the conclusion of the procession, the Maypole was secured in its stand. Young and old alike then formed a circle around it and began to sing and dance.

After enthusiastically participating in the activities, everyone was ready for the potluck picnic, a generous array of familiar Scandinavian dishes and desserts. Drinks were provided by the host organizations.

This was the 13th annual Midsommer Celebration sponsored by the American Scandinavian Association, the Drott Lodge of the VASA Order of America, the Swedish Women’s Educational Association, and the Norwegian Society. Everyone interested in Scandinavian culture is invited to participate next year. This event is a wonderful way to preserve and pass on a beloved tradition and to mingle with local people with Scandinavian roots. For more information, please visit the websites of the American Scandinavian Association ( and the Norwegian Society (

This article originally appeared in the June 27, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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Christine Foster Meloni

Christine Foster Meloni is professor emerita at The George Washington University. She has degrees in Italian literature, linguistics, and international education. She was born in Minneapolis and currently lives in Washington, D.C. She values her Norwegian heritage.