The Sepia Saturday prompt photo this week made me think of this one from my grandfather's album. Unusually it comes with a note of the year (1924), location (name of a farm/estate) - and the occasion being what we in Swedish call a gökotta. 'Gök' means cuckoo, and 'otta' means early morning; put it together, and you have an early morning outing in the spring (May) to listen to the birds - especially the cuckoo, as a sign of spring.
There are some superstitions connected with hearing the cuckoo - bad luck or good luck depending on from which direction you hear it. I don't know if it's the same in other countries, as in the Swedish language the meanings are also connected to rhymes:
Södergök är dödergök, västergök är bästergök, östergök är tröstergök, norrgök är sorggök. In English that is: (Hearing the cuckoo) from the south means death; from the west is the best; from the east means comfort (consolation); from the north means sorrow
In church context, however, gökotta usually denotes an outdoors early church service on Ascension day (commemorating the ascension of Jesus into heaven, after his resurrection). But the word can also be used for an early picnic on another spring day - for example 1st May, which is Labour Day here. But as 1st May was not made a holiday in Sweden until 1939, I assume that the occasion in the photo above was Ascension Day, and an outdoors church service. A quick search informs me that in 1924, Ascension Day was 29th May; which in that case dates the photo more precisely.
At first I felt I could not identify anyone in the photo, but having got it enlarged on the computer screen, I do think I recognize the tall man in the dark hat in the middle in the top row as my grandfather. In May 1924, he would have been just a month short of turning 20 years old. I don't recognize anyone else in the photo (like my grandmother or her sister or brother).
The 'gökotta' context set me thinking about a few of those kinds of outings that I attended myself back in my youth.
For example, in 1975, when I was 19 going on 20, a youth group from my church back then went on an early morning gökotta on 1st May (which by then was a holiday). This was in the forest up on the (not very high) mountain Hunneberg - better known for chances to catch a glimpse of an elk (moose) than a cuckoo, but I'm not sure we saw any of those either. The photo below shows the classical charms of cooking breakfast outdoors in the forest on a chilly and damp morning in May, though:
On Ascension Day the same year (only a week later), a larger group from the same small free church went on a day-trip to an island off the west coast, visiting another church there. But of course following the tradition of holding the meeting outdoors on this day. Our choir probably joined forces with theirs - I don't recognize half the people in these photos.
Of course the ritual again also included the usual burning of sausages on open fire... ;) And that's me on the right, by the way - just to prove how hard it can be to recognize people in old photos! (Hey, did I really have that much hair, once upon a time?!)
Linking to Sepia Saturday 563