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Festivities: Midsummer 2

Photo: Visit Finland

Midsummer in Finland

With exams written and assignments handed in, the study year in Finland slowly comes to an end. It is time to get prepared for the summer season. For those international students who have not yet made any travel plans, Finland has much to offer in summer. And what could serve better to shrug off winter’s grey coat and get into the summer mood than Juhannus, commonly known as Midsummer?

Midsummer in Finland: Summer solstice and pagan origins

The celebrations take place around the summer solstice, which marks the longest day of the year. Midsummer is an important public holiday all over Northern Europe, including the Baltic countries and similar to Vappu, Juhannus has pagan origins. Back in pre-Christian times, bonfires (kokko) were burned in order to scare off evil spirits and worship Ukko, the ancient god of thunder and rain, which was meant to ensure a rich harvest.

Countryside - recourse for city life

Nowadays Juhannus marks the beginning of the summer holiday season. The Juhannus-holidays are typically spent in the cottage of the family or friends (mökki) in the countryside. Surrounded by nature, the stress of city life quickly fades away and it’s all about the simple joys in life. Sharing summer-food (new potatoes, pickled herring, grilled fish with lots of dill and lemon), going fishing and, of course, spending time in sauna with friends and family stand in the foreground of the festivities. As the evening turns into the night, the bonfire is lit and the special magic of Juhannus unfolds. Watching the flames dance in the twilight of the night compensates for the ongoing struggle against mosquitos. While the sun just merely settles in the South and provides a previously unknown set of colours for the senses, the North of Finland sees broad daylight even in the deepest hour of the night.

Midsummer in the city

With most people retreating to the countryside, a strange silence falls over the cities, leaving them almost deserted. The atmosphere in the streets fully changes from one day to another and for those who stay, midsummer events with bonfires and dances are organised. The festivities on the beautiful and picturesque outdoor museum island Seurasaari in Helsinki for example attract up to ten thousand locals, with similar parties happening in every city. For those who do not want to miss the special silence of the abandoned city, many clubs nowadays offer special Juhannus-parties and concerts.

It is hard to put the importance of Juhannus into words and even harder to catch its spirit, much like with any other important holiday. Juhannus is the one day of the year to let go of everyday-commitments, enjoy nature and party like there is no tomorrow. So make the best out of it, have a good swim in the lake at midnight, don’t forget to go to sauna and make sure that you are having a great time with friends.

Jens Närger, CIMO