Scan Magazine | Humour | Columns
IS IT JUST ME…
By Mette Lisby
… who felt that bump we just hit passing summer solstice? If you were anywhere near Scandinavia, I’m sure you felt it too, because summer solstice is a big deal in the Nordic countries. In Denmark, it’s called Sankt Hans and reflects the old, pagan tradition of summer solstice, conveniently paired with Christianity. Thus, it is actually named after John the Baptist, who was born on this day. At first, you might do a double take, wondering how John became Hans, thinking, ‘Wow, they did not hold back on their drinking back then, either’. But since John the Baptist’s Danish name is Johannes, it makes a surprising amount of sense for a holiday. I mean, usually we struggle to connect eggs and bunnies with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, so in comparison, the John-Hans issue seems remarkably straightforward. Sankt Hans is celebrated in the evening, and it stands out by being one of the few holidays that Danes don’t mark by taking a day off. And, like Christmas, we celebrate
it the night before the actual Birthday of John the Baptist. John the Baptist did not leave much of a trail on this traditional celebration, though. It’s a festive evening with bonfires that in the 16th century added a rollicking touch of burning witches – yes, actual women – on the bonfire. Ah, the glee of the Middle Ages. The burning women aside, the evening has a bittersweet side to it, too, seeing as the days now only get shorter. So we all start to adjust to the carefree life, humming along to ‘summertime / and the living is easy’, the epitome of that laidback summer feeling – the feeling that, eventually, everything will work itself out. But that feeling never lingers for very long in Scandinavians. It seems to be genetically determined that as soon as we start to enjoy something, it all goes downhill, and melancholy sets in – hence all the Bergman movies. Much like life, just when you get the
Swedish café Turns out I’m not the only Scandi in the village. So far, I have made friends with a Finn and a Dane and now a Swedish café has opened up down the road! It’s been a few months in the making, with local residents eagerly debating the need for meatballs and whether it will be ‘just like IKEA’. The grand opening took place a few weeks ago and my husband suggested that we pop down so that I could introduce myself as a supporting fellow Swede. This should of course be the obvious and normal thing to do – just to go along, be friendly, say hello. The only problem was that for some inexplicable reason, I had gone curiously bashful. Despite this, down we went for a salmon sandwich. ‘There she is!’, husband shouted excitedly on spotting the owner in the kitchen. At the prospect of having to say hello, I grabbed my sandwich and ‘chokladboll’ (a Swedish no-bake cacao treat) and scurried off as 118 | Issue 126 | July 2019
hang of it, times shift and you’re on the other side of your peak. Oh… See, like a true Scandinavian, I started out writing about the festive take on summer solstice, and ended up in a somber mood. Happy Summer Solstice!
Mette Lisby is Denmark’s leading female comedian. She invites you to laugh along with her monthly humour columns. Since her stand-up debut in 1992, Mette has hosted the Danish version of Have I Got News For You and Room 101.
By Maria Smedstad
child thinks you’re a loser? What if the only other Swede in the village has no interest in being my friend? No – much better to stay safe underneath a veil of anonymous Britishness, until I’m able to grow up. I’ll have to go back at some point, of course. That’s another problem with being a Swede: once you’ve found a source of good ‘chokladbollar’, there is no keeping you away.
fast as I could to a table in the far corner. When husband caught up with me, I had no excuse for my behaviour. The closest I could get to an explanation was that I was overcome with that feeling you get as a child, when your mum or dad pushes you towards the only other child at a party and tells you to make friends. What if the other
Maria Smedstad moved to the UK from Sweden in 1994. She received a degree in Illustration in 2001, before settling in the capital as a freelance cartoonist, creating the autobiographical cartoon Em. Maria writes a column on the trials and tribulations of life as a Swede in the UK.
Promoting Brand Scandinavia! Including Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland.