New Sweden’s celebration of heritage to return this month

6 months ago

NEW SWEDEN, Maine — When mid-June comes around, people in New Sweden and beyond come together to celebrate a shared heritage.

New Sweden will host its annual Midsommar June 16-18, featuring traditions dating back to the late 1800s in Aroostook County. The festival typically attracts hundreds to the small Aroostook town who often dress in traditional Swedish clothes and exchange stories, recipes and anecdotes of their past.

In Swedish culture, Midsommar marks the true beginning of summer with dancing, food, games and other activities. In Aroostook, the roots of Midsommar go back to 1871, nearly a year after the first Swedish settlers arrived in the area known today as New Sweden.

Northern Maine’s Swedish colony originated in 1870 after William Thomas, a war counsel to Sweden during the Civil War, brought 51 immigrants to Aroostook. Half of those settlers perished during an influenza outbreak that winter, but over the years surviving community members helped Midsommar grow.

The Midsommars of modern times still feature traditions like decorating the maypole with flowers, dancing and singing around the maypole and sharing Swedish food, said Midsommar committee co-chair Debbie Blanchette.

On Friday, June 16, community members will gather in fields near the New Sweden Historical Museum, 116 Station Road, to gather flowers for headdresses and the maypole.

The next day at 11 a.m. folks will decorate and erect the maypole behind the museum and watch a performance by The New Sweden Little Folk Dancers, a group of 32 children and adults.

This year’s Midsommar features a new exhibit at the historical society’s museum called The Old Swedish Kitchen. Blanchette encourages people to provide cooking materials, utensils and other kitchen items that older generations would have used. They can also share photos of relatives using those items.

“[For example], maybe someone has an old bread board that their grandmother made bread on,” Blanchette said.

A Swedish supper will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 17, at Gustaf Adolph Lutheran Church, 29 Capital Hill Road. At 10 a.m. Sunday, June 18, the First Baptist Church of New Sweden will lead an interfaith service at Thomas Park. In the event of rain, the service will be moved to First Baptist Church at 17 Westmanland Road.

Blanchette said that a full schedule of Midsommer festivities can be found on the New Sweden Historical Society Facebook page.