What do Swedes do on the longest day of the year? Celebrate all things long, of course. A tall glass of beer (or twelve), the lasting stench of pickled herring and the highest phallic symbol on the green. If any country should celebrate the day when the sun sets at 10pm, it's Sweden. After nine months of winter, ‘tis that time of year to get unbelievably plastered, when princes turn back into frogs and frolic around the maypole.
Unlike the pole dancing you’d expect from other, American holidays disguised as an excuse to get drunk (e.g. singles on Valentine’s Day, bachelorette parties and, um, EDC?), the Swedish version is not quite as sexy. Closer to "Ring Around the Rosie" than bam chicka wah wah, the literal translation of the song "Små grodorna" ("Little Frogs") actually needs no translation at all. The clapping and hopping like amphibians is enough. Even the shyest of Swedes get shitfaced and get down.
By mid-afternoon, faces already red from drinking and too much sun do well to disguise the potentially embarrassing and awkward song and dance. But even more awkward is Midsummer at Battery City Park, which attracts up to 5,000 people (Swedes and their Green Card partners alike). Unfortunately still in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, where public drinking is highly condoned, the lyrics "kou ack ack ack" (frog sounds) are less fueled by liquor than by, well, the upside down penis. Theories suggest the symbolism dates back to the Roman god Priapus, who is always depicted with a permanent erection. Subtle. Freudian slips and theories aside, that's what it looks like.
We watched from afar, the sea of floral crowns dancing counter-clockwise, rippling around the maypole, and decided: we desperately needed more to drink.