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Solstice Celebrations

Light fare, both kinds.

The farther north you live, the more you appreciate the significance of the summer solstice, the first day of summer. To reach this point, it’s taken six months for the days to get longer and the nights to get shorter, and in some places the transition is extreme. Take Sweden’s northernmost town of Kiruna, located above the Arctic Circle. In December on the first day of winter, the sun never even rises above the horizon, and it’s not until the first week of January that residents see the sun again. From there, it’s a slow but steady march to the summer solstice in June with a full 24 hours of sunlight. Reason to celebrate? Yes, Sweden has every reason to celebrate the solstice.

The midsommar smorgasbord.

Other cultures, of course, celebrate the summer solstice too. If you’re in Austria on the first day of summer, you might see bonfires on mountain peaks. If you’re in Portugal, you might cheer for fireworks filling the night sky for St. John’s Day.

But if you’re in Sweden, you want to leave the city and get outdoors, preferably at a lake cabin or by the sea. Family and friends are there with plenty of food and drink, and to keep things active and informal, buffets are perfect for bringing people together and keeping the festivities moving. After all, the term smörgåsbord is Swedish, and this sometimes lavish array of food items can include hot and cold meats, breads, cheeses, fresh berries, fresh produce and more. Finger foods are a great way to fuel the fun, and that means one favorite is required, Swedish meatballs.

A new spin on meatballs.

Classic Swedish meatballs, or köttbullar, are usually made with a ground meat mixture of beef and pork. But since the goal of midsummer is being active and making the most of every minute of daylight, why not lighten things up with Swedish-Style Chicken With Creamy Dill Gravy? It’s a quick, delicious recipe. Simply cube boneless skinless chicken breasts into 1-inch squares and sauté. Then make the gravy in the same skillet and combine. Less time cooking, more time celebrating. That’s the way to savor the solstice.

Summer at its peak.

Swedish-Style Chicken With Creamy Dill Gravy takes advantage of seasonal herbs, in this case chopped fresh dill. But there’s so much more available at local farmers markets or growing in home gardens. Start planning your solstice celebration or summer feast today. The long, leisurely days of midsummer don’t last forever. Such golden moments are truly times of celebration.