Jeanne Eriksson Widman Andersen and Wayne Soderlund of Smorgasbandet treated school children in Pelham, NY to a real Swedish Midsummer.

My son Lars was born in the U.S., and like many Swedish expat parents, I try to inject a bit of Swedish culture into him whenever possible. When he was a baby, it was easy singing Swedish lullabies and reading Swedish books, but now that he is a kindergartener, it’s more difficult. All children want to be the same, nobody wants to stand out in any way, shape or form, thus being Swedish is simply a bit—how shall I put this delicately?— “pinsamt,” embarrassing.
“Bamse” (the Swedish comic book) is still a favorite, but only in the privacy of our home. The Swedish “lovikka” mittens are fine in winter as long as nobody from school sees him wearing them. In short, there didn’t seem to be much about Sweden that was “cool." When the school my son attends announced that an International Day was in the plans, I thought I’d use that as an incentive for Lars to feel proud of his heritage. And what better way to do it than to ask Jeanne Eriksson Widman Anderson and Wayne Soderlund to come to the school and tell some stories about Sweden, perhaps sing and play some songs? Jeanne and Wayne did more than that, they brought a Maypole, their accordions, Swedish flags, a giant orange-colored Dalahäst and folk costumes, and they gave my son and his schoolmates (all 360 of them) a taste of Sweden they won’t soon forget. The hour-long program was titled “Sweden Welcomes Summer,” but it might just as well have been called “From Sweden To Pelham With Love.”
Looking for or planning a Swedish Midsummer? We'll run a comprehensive listing of Swedish American Midsummer celebrations next week, along with a "Swedish Midsummer 101" ... and, just in case you haven't experienced one yet, you'll find plenty of inspiration at or under 'Video' at


Call me Mormor Jeanne
“You can call me Mormor Jeanne,” said Jeanne to the children, who were sitting in a giant circle around her in the school’s gymnasium, in the middle of which stood the maypole. “And I’m going to teach you some Swedish. You want to know how to say hello in Swedish? Hej! Can you say that?"
“HEJ!” the children shouted back.
“And here’s how you say 'how are you:' Hur mår du?” said Jeanne.
“Hur maar doo?” the children shouted back.
“Do you know that in Sweden in winter it’s dark all the time?” Jeanne explained. “In the morning when you go to school it’s dark, at ten in the morning it’s still dark, and when you go home from school, guess what?”
“IT’S DARK!” shouted the children.
“That’s right,” said Jeanne. “Can you believe it? So when summer comes, Swedish people get so excited. They take flowers and decorate everything—they decorate their houses, they decorate their cars, they put flowers in their hair and they make this Maypole, this m-i-d-s-o-m-m-a-r-s-t-å-n-g, and they decorate it, too, and dance around it. Would you like to dance too?”
“YES!” the children hollered.
And single-handedly Jeanne led these children, who had never heard of “Små grodorna” or “Vi äro musikanter,” in “ringdans” with the help of Wayne on his accordion. In “Prästens lilla kråka” the kids screamed with laughter as they fell “i diket.” They had no clue what was being sung or why, but the implications of it they understood: This was all fun and free and exciting! It was different and still completely OK. And when “Mormor Jeanne” asked my son to please tell everyone what “gris” means in English, I noticed a smile of pride on his face as he spoke clearly into her microphone:
“It means ‘pig!’”
Afterward many teachers came up and said it was the best assembly the school had ever had. I am not at all surprised.
By Eva Stenskär, New York

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