Why People in Sweden Put Flowers Under Their Pillow for Midsummer

published Jun 21, 2019
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There are so many different types of summer solstice traditions around the globe that we could never possibly list them all, but this flower-focused one from Sweden is especially lovely for the occasion.

On the night of Friday, June 21, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) is gifting travelers flying from the US to Scandinavia a bouquet of seven gorgeous fresh flowers, which they are to put underneath their pillows. The airline has partnered with NYC florist Starbright to help this Scandinavian tradition come to life—one that has deep cultural meaning.

“Midsummer is one of the most beloved holidays in Scandinavia, and on the eve you stay up late with the Midnight Sun, dancing around the Maypole and eating lots of cured herring accompanied with schnapps – to help the fish swim,” says Max Knagge, SAS General Managers of America. “It’s also tradition to pick seven wild flowers and sleep with them under your pillow, in order to dream of your one true love.”

According to the Swedish Tourism Board, the intention behind the pillow flowers is to discover love in your dreams during Midsummer. “If you place seven types of flowers under your pillow at midsummer, you will dream about your future spouse,” reads a caption on their website. 

This is just folklore, of course—and the tales vary—but the gist is the same: flowers beneath the pillow during summer solstice yield soulmate dreams. So where did this tradition come from? Do people who are married or folks who believe they’ve already found their one true love place the flowers beneath their pillows, too? For people who are in monogamous relationships, do dreams of others during Midsummer cause trouble in paradise? 

Sweden’s traditions for Midsummer are said to date back to the 1500s, where the festivities initially centered on a celebration of fertility. With cold and long winters, the lush greenery and the fresh food the season yields are certainly worthy of the fanfare. People would erect tall, leafy maypoles to dance around. They would also decorate their houses with leaves, which would leave entire neighborhoods looking green and lush. Leaving flowers beneath a pillow during Midsummer began with women and girls

“There used to be a tradition among unmarried girls, where if they ate something very salty during Midsummer, or else collected several different kinds of flowers and put these under their pillow when they slept, they would dream of their future husbands,” said Jan-Öjvind Swahn, a Swedish author and ethnologist in a quote on Midsummer for CNN

Dreams are obviously not a binding promise for reality’s future (I’d like to take some of mine up on their foretellings if so), but the idea of them being prophetic is fun. And hey: any excuse to get some fresh flowers works for us!