• Sweden edition
 
Expat Swedes gather for Manhattan Midsummer
Photo: Jonas Cuenin

Expat Swedes gather for Manhattan Midsummer

Published: 28 Jun 2010 09:19 GMT+02:00
Updated: 28 Jun 2010 09:19 GMT+02:00

New York, with the Statue of Liberty shimmering in the 30-degree heat, this is not a Midsummer celebration like those you see in Sweden. But rising in the central green is a familiar sight - a maypole adorned with sunflowers and linden boughs, a little slice of Sweden in downtown Manhattan.

"It's an interesting mix of being in the park at the southern tip of Manhattan with a view over the Statue of Liberty and the skyscrapers in the background...and this really Swedish atmosphere. It's a really fun combination," said Melinda Martino, director of public affairs and communications for the Consulate General of Sweden in New York.

All of the trappings of the holiday are here: a sing-along of new and old Swedish favorites, fiddlers in folk costumes, and traditional dances around the maypole. There is a long line outside of the Swedish Women's Educational Association's stand for flower wreaths, and men, women and children of all nationalities can be seen sporting the arrangements in their hair.

"I like to do things very authentically, very traditionally," said Abby Ehrlich, director of parks programming for the Battery Parks Conservancy and one of the lead organizers of the event. She says that while other Midsummer celebrations take more advantage of commercial opportunities, "we prefer to keep it a day where it's just about nature and picnicking and being with friends and family."

For all its authenticity, the event has some distinct New York touches as well, including a proclamation from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

After a short introduction by David E. R. Dangoor, Consul General of Sweden in New York for the past six months, Brian Anderson of the City Records Office takes to the stage to read the Mayor's proclamation.

"Ever since 1639," intoned Anderson in a thick New York accent, "when Swede Jonas Bronck settled the area north of Manhattan that would later bear his name, Sweden has made tremendous contributions to New York City."

New York was never a major center of Swedish immigration the way Chicago or Minneapolis were, but Swedes flock to the city in droves today, both to visit and to stay. While there are no definite numbers, Consul General Dangoor estimates that up to 30,000 Swedish-born people reside in the greater New York area.

The event has been hosted by the Battery Parks Conservancy for fifteen years and consistently draws a crowd numbering in the thousands, about half of them Swedish, to Robert Wagner Park: a small, neatly manicured set of lawns that overlook the confluence of the Hudson and East Rivers.

Many of the performing groups that return from year to year are made up not of native Swedes, but of descendants of Swedish immigrants who have rediscovered their roots. Rediscovered, that is, or simply never forgotten: the Swedish Folkdancers, who performed at the event, recently celebrated their 104th anniversary.

The crowd is in many ways reflective of the Swedish expatriate community in New York: many young professionals and mixed Swedish-American couples and families, slickly dressed businessmen and golden-headed nannies. It is a diverse group, but one that is very proud of its culture.

"When you move out of a country, somehow the culture of that country becomes more important to you," said Erik Bohman of the Sound of Sweden Choir, who earlier had led the crowd in a rendition of Abba's "Thank You for the Music."

"When you become an expatriate yourself, you realize how much your home country culture means, and how important those rituals are," said Bohman.

Bohman added that being a Swede in the US has been a learning experience and one that a lot of his fellow countrymen could benefit from.

"In Sweden, I don't think the tolerance level is as high. So people sometimes question, 'why do these people keep their culture?' But I'm here as a Swedish immigrant and of course I keep my culture, it's very important to me."

The New York City Midsummer celebration is a particularly grand example of the Swedish diaspora’s ability to hold on to its culture while fully integrating on a global scale.

"My parents' generation still know these folk dances that would be forgotten in any other country," said Bohman. "Hopefully we can keep doing it here."

As the sun starts to set over the swelling waves of Upper New York Bay, the park is still jam-packed with people, picnic blankets cover every inch of green space, and the air is filled with the smell of Swedish meatballs and the sounds of folk songs. It appears that Swedish Midsummer in New York has a long, bright future ahead of it.

Mischa Benoit-Lavelle is freelance writer based in New York City.

Related links:

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

04:25 July 1, 2010 by repat_xpat
Whoo Hooo!! Lets Drink all night and eat rotten fish! We are Swedish!! I'm sure the bums in NYC can relate.
14:37 July 1, 2010 by svenskdod
It is Awesome they are keeping things going over there.
08:29 July 9, 2010 by janswed
i love surstromming with all its smell thah is true northern swedish tradition hold youre noses and enjoy.
21:43 July 12, 2010 by mibrooks27
Stupid. New York is a wasteland and has nothing in common with Sweden. Thank God! I live in the Northwest, Oregon, and Washington and Oregon are filled with Scandinavian festivals, Swedish restaurants and stores, Swedish town names, and people who actually speak still Swedish.
03:22 July 18, 2010 by repat_xpat
@ mibrooks27, condescending, arrogant and self righteous, if you also consider yourself humble, then you are a true Swede. You deserve dual citizenship in the US NW and Sweden. I don't live in NY, nor am I a fan of it -- but I see no reason to dis on it.
Today's headlines
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'

Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'

After reports that wandering elks were scaring the public, police on the island of Frösön have decided not to open fire on the animals, but have urged locals to exercise caution instead. READ  

Swedish funds to tackle female genital mutilation
Sweden's Minister of International Development Cooperation Hillevi Engström with Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. File photo: TT

Swedish funds to tackle female genital mutilation

Sweden has earmarked 48 million kronor ($7 million) of its development aid budget to a United Nations programme to tackle female genital mutilation. READ  

Swedish leaders speak out on Gaza crisis
Photo: TT

Swedish leaders speak out on Gaza crisis

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt believes Israel is interested in negotiating a ceasefire with Hamas while Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven has stood by his comment about the Israelis having a right to defend itself. READ  

New rules threaten microbreweries
File photo: Systembolaget

New rules threaten microbreweries

Swedish microbreweries have reacted with concern to new distribution regulations being imposed by the state controlled alcohol monopoly Systembolaget, which they fear may put them out of business. READ  

ABB and Volvo in electric buses tie-up
Volvo hybrid bus. Photo: Volvo Buses

ABB and Volvo in electric buses tie-up

Swiss-Swedish engineering group ABB and Volvo Buses of Sweden have announced a joint project to develop a system for electric buses to recharge their batteries fast when at bus stops. READ  

'First ever' heat warning issued for Sweden
Photo: TT

'First ever' heat warning issued for Sweden

Swedish weather agency SMHI has issued its first ever warning for high temperatures with the many areas set to bask in plus 30C heat. READ  

Top Brazilian football star signs for Malmö club
Marta celebrates after scoring in the 2014 Uefa Champions League Women's Final. Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Top Brazilian football star signs for Malmö club

Brazilian superstar Marta will be donning the colours of FC Rosengård this season with the Swedish club hoping the investment will keep them at the top of the women's game. READ  

Swede feared kidnapped by Ukrainian separatists
Rebel tanks on the road to Horlivka in June. Photo: TT

Swede feared kidnapped by Ukrainian separatists

Swedish police are investigating the suspected kidnapping of a Swedish citizen by pro-Russian separatists at a road block in eastern Ukraine. READ  

Saab pulls out of Denmark fighter bidding

Saab pulls out of Denmark fighter bidding

Swedish defence firm Saab has declined to provide a bid for a 30 billion ($4.37 billion) Danish fighter contract while reports indicate that US firm Lockheed Martin is set to land the deal. READ  

Volvo Trucks mulls appeal over US fine
Photo: Volvo Penta

Volvo Trucks mulls appeal over US fine

Swedish truck maker Volvo Group said Monday that it is considering considering its legal options after a US appeals court upheld a multimillion fine on environmental infringements of its marine engines. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Society
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Gallery
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Tech
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Blog updates

18 July

Starting over (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

" I’ve now been off the water for almost 14 days. At first I was totally gutted being forced into a rest period, I had Stockholm in my sights and apart from the pain and discomfort in my shoulder, spirits were high and I was starting to gain some momentum. The news hit me fairly hard and..." READ »

 

18 July

Favorites of Swedish Summer 2014 (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"In a boscage of brush and birch trees, sits an unobtrusive cabin on the sea. A small window faces the windward side of the feverish Baltic. It’s the size of a modern wardrobe, designed to fit a small desk and a limitless cavern of stories and characters that extend as far as the waves and skies..." READ »

 
 
 
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
Lifestyle
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
Society
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
National
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Gallery
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
National
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
National
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
Gallery
People-watching July 11-13
National
Malmö mayor slams Danish beggar ban
National
Swedish anti-abortion midwife sues county
National
Swede's salary chopped for Facebook use
National
Northern Sweden warmest in 90 years
Gallery
'Victoria Day': Crown Princess Victoria turns 37
Politics
Mona Sahlin to fight extremism in Sweden
National
EU tells Sweden to cover up snus flavours
Society
Swede snags assassin role in Tom Cruise film
Lifestyle
Top ten ways to spend a few days in Malmö
Gallery
Swedish summer tourism highlights
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

699
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se