National Geographic : 1976 Jan
ALBERTMOLDVAY(FACINGPAGE)ANDJONATHANBLAIR Midsummer magic grips revelers at Skansen (left) as they join hands around a majstang--a flower-decked pole. Wreaths on the cross beam symbolize fruitfulness and prosperity. Midsum mer's Eve dates to days of pagan worship, reaffirming Sweden's love affair with the sun. "When the woods and fields are green and flowers are in bloom," wrote Olaus Magnus in 1555, "the people assemble...to dance." A young Swedish beauty (below left) smiles from be neath a circlet of flowers. It is said that on this night, any maiden who places seven different wild flowers be neath her pillow dreams of the man she will marry. Eventually, this "day that never ends" fades as does the brief summer season, but there is no shortage of festivals. December 13 is St. Lucia day, when in homes all over Sweden the eldest daughter rises before dawn and, at tended by her brothers and sisters, steals into her par ents' room with "bread for hunger and candles to light the darkness." Then they sing songs to honor the saint and to defy winter's gloom. From this family tradition has evolved a national cele bration, with hotels, shop ping centers, even whole cities having their "Lucias." One group of choristers (right) serenades an office building in Stockholm.