Archive for Thursday, June 17, 2010

Scandinavians represent

Midsommar Celebration to feature Scandinavian games, burning witches

June 17, 2010

A centuries-old tradition will take place in Bonner Springs this Saturday as Scandinavian organizations from throughout the area put on the 2010 Midsommar Celebration at Hollis Renewal Center.

“It’s a feeling of unity,” said Carla Hanson, president of the Scandinavian Women’s Society and vice president of the Danish Brotherhood Lodge 56, of the event. “It’s knowing that our ancestors did this every year.”

The event is being presented by members from eight different Scandinavian organizations, including the Scandinavian Association of Greater Kansas City and the Icelandic Association. The Midsommar Celebration in Wyandotte County has been a result of this joint effort of organizations, Hanson said, for the last 10 years, but the tradition itself has been a mainstay of the Scandinavian region of Europe, encompassing the countries of Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, for centuries.

Midsommar — or midsummer in English — as the longest day of the year, is celebrated by these countries in unique fashion and those traditions will be echoed by local enthusiasts during this weekend’s celebration.

Some of these traditions include the raising of the majstàng, an 18-foot maypole decorated with flowers.

“And then you dance around this flowered pole,” Hanson said. “It’s really exciting to see the men get the thing in the air and down into a hole they’ve dug so it will stand … but that kind of reigns over the whole Midsommar (Celebration).”

Perhaps the most significant tradition for those who attend the celebration, Hanson said, is the burning of the witches ceremony. Prior to the event, full-sized “witches,” which Hanson said look a lot like scarecrows, are made out of found materials like old clothes stuffed with milk bottles or newspaper. During the ceremony, the witches are hung from a pole in the middle of a bonfire. The symbolism here, she says, is that the witches represent those negative aspects of one’s life that, through their burning, are taken away.

“It’s almost a reverent thing, to see that fire,” Hanson said. “You’re almost speechless. You’re just sitting there in a trance watching the fire go up and catch these witches … the smoke carries all the bad things in your life … the smoke carries it all away.”

The event will also include a potluck dinner, music, door prizes, face painting and Scandinavian games for youths. Meats like beef brisket, ham and turkey will be provided at the potluck, but attendees are asked to bring a dish of vegetables, salad or dessert large enough to feed eight people.

Hanson said over the years the Midsommar Celebration has drawn as many as 140 people, all wanting to honor an annual tradition that is just like many others.

“It’s just like people who celebrate Christmas every year or Halloween,” Hanson said. “This is just a way to be truly Scandinavian on this special event.”

The Midsommar Celebration, which is free and open to the public, will start at 4 p.m. this Saturday, with the burning of the witches to end the celebration going on at 9 p.m. at Hollis Renewal Center, 11414 Kansas Ave.

For more information, contact Hanson at (913) 322-6999.

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