Colorado’s Scandinavian Midsummer Festival

At the Estes Park festival, people are taught how to make rings of flowers (Photo by Anna Groeling).

Enduring winters and short summers gives Scandinavian countries more than enough reason to cherish the lasting daylight. It makes sense, then, that one of Sweden’s most important holidays celebrates the summer solstice. During this time, it’s common for most Swedes to take a long holiday. And come Midsummer’s Eve, Sweden’s stores shut down all-together.

Midsummer takes place mid-June, and the Scandinavian tradition can be celebrated around the world. In Estes Park, Colorado the Scandinavian Midsummer is celebrated June 27th and 28th. The following are some facts about Midsummer and what can be expected at the Estes Park Midsummer Festival.

The Mayflower Pole

Mayflower Pole
Mayflower Poles can still be found all over Europe and in European communities within North America (Photo by Anna Groeling).

The Midsummer festivities begin when the mayflower pole has been decorated and raised. Flowers and leaves are wrapped around the pole, while even more flowers are used to create crowns for both children and adults. Songs, often silly in nature, are played as those celebrating dance around the mayflower pole.

The Midsummer traditions date back to the pre-Christian era, where it was believed that nature had magical properties on the longest day of the year. During the sparse hours of night, it’s Scandinavian tradition for children to pick wildflowers in complete silence and place them under their pillow to dream of their future spouse.


Rosemaling is a floral pattern that’s traditionally painted on wood. Louise Bath, a Estes Park booth vender, has been painting Rosemaling for over 25 years and has showed her work at the Colorado festival many times.

“The idea [of Rosemaling] spread to the isolated mountains of Norway where individual styles developed such as Hallingdal,” said Bath. The Hallingdal variation always has a symmetrical center.

According to Bath, the traditional Rosemaling style translates to “decorative painting” in Norwegian and had its hayday in 1875. Though originating from Norway, Rosemaling has gradually become more popular in the United States.

“The children and great grand children are proud of their Scandinavian roots, so they take part in crafts like weaving, wood carving and Rosemaling,” said Bath. 

The Tomten

The Tomten is believed to have a very mischievous nature. Other names for it are tomte and nisse (Photo by Anna Groeling).

Tomtens are depicted as small guardians with long beards and bright knit caps. In general, they are associated with the Christmas season and winter solstice. Gabriella Cervin, a Scandinavian artist, grew up in Sweden and was influenced by Norse mythology and its ties to nature. Now, Cervin lives in Colorado and shares her culture by crafting mythological Swedish Tomtens.

“The Tomten is the protector [of the house and family], but he’s also a teacher that wants to remind us to take care of the land,” Cervin said. “We grew up with these nature characters.”

According to Cervin, the Tomtens make a good therapeutic tool for hyperactive kids. Cervin uses organic fibers for her craft, which are dyed with plants and flowers. The delicate material helps calm and teach the children to be gentle.

“Every Tomten has a story to tell,” said Cervin.


Photo by Anna Groeling

Midsummer, of course, wouldn’t be complete without delicious food. Potatoes, pickled herring, fresh strawberries with cream and smoked salmon are popular choices for this day. While not all these choices are offered at the Estes Park festival, there are plenty of delicious baked goods to chose from.

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