The Swedish-American Community of Brevort, Michigan, Brevort, Swedish Midsummer Pole And Celebration, 2010
The Swedish-speaking immigrants who settled in Brevort, Michigan, at the turn of the twentieth century continued a tradition from their native Åland Islands, located between Sweden and Finland, of celebrating Midsummer (Midsommar) with a Midsummer pole and festivities. After a storm in the 1960s destroyed the original pole, the tradition was discontinued. When the Movalson family of Brevort visited Åland Islands in the 1970s to research family history, they observed many communities celebrating Midsummer with the same type of poles, and they returned to Brevort committed to revive the tradition with the help of the entire community.
They created a new pole out of cedar, about half the height of the original pole. On top they placed a carved and painted whirligig representing humanity, a wooden whirligig representing the sun, and a wooden rooster, the sun’s herald. Below the carvings are four carved and painted sailing boats that spin in the wind representing the four seasons. Hanging from the cross beams are crowns, colorful strips of cloth made into balls, representing the six days of creation. During the Midsummer celebration, men gather poplar leaves and men and women of all ages tie the leaves into bundles and string them in garlands back and forth along the cross beams. Ropes are then attached to the decorated pole which is then raised by several men pulling on ropes. A local dignitary pounds in a bolt at the bottom holder to secure the pole upright. After listening to women sing Swedish songs and to Lois Movalson give interpretive remarks geared for new visitors, the community continues the celebration with a potluck dinner.
- Anonymous, 2010