Summer Solstice - Midsummer in Finland

Dated: June 17 2020

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Finland is known for its cold and dark winters and short summers with long days and nightless nights. 

Summer Solstice, Midsummer, in Finland is celebrated on Midsummer’s Eve. This year is falls on Friday, June 19th. 

Midsummer used to be a pagan festival.

After spring sowing ancient Finns celebrated the feast of Ukko, the Finnish god of weather, fertility and growth. Upon Christian era the Finns started celebrating the birth of John the Baptist - John transfers Juha in Finnish - hence the Finnish name Juhannus. 

There are lots old traditions and spells that were done at Midsummer. They are mostly about the future husband’s qualities, luck in marriage, and fertility. Here are a few:

  • when you put nine different kinds of flowers under your pillow, you will dream about your future husband
  • after Midsummer eve sauna you should walk backwards, naked, towards a firewood pile - the kind of log your butt hits will tell what your your future husband is like: a chopped wood is someone else’s husband, if the wood is uncut you’ll get a husband of your own.
  • when you look into a well, naked again, you will see a reflection of your future husband
  • you will have a dream about your future husband when you sleep with a sock on your left foot that is inside out. 

Lots of old spells and traditions require some levels of nudity. 

An ongoing tradition still is Juhannuskokko, a huge bonfire. People will gather around them and enjoy the beautiful Finnish summer night. Fully clothed though, at least most of them.

Enough history. 

Juhannus - is the longest night of the year. Many Finns start their summer vacations, normally lasting four weeks (paid vacation + vacation pay - google it). If you visit Helsinki during the holiday weekend you will see a few tourist here and there wondering where’s everybody at. I remember when I was in my 20s bicycling down Mannerheimintie (the maid road thru downtown Helsinki) at midnight, sun still up, no people a n y w h e r e! Quite an experience. (It’s been a few years!)

Most locals pack their families into their environmentally friendly vehicles and spend the weekend in their summer cottage, enjoying their own sauna, and the beauty of one of the ten thousand lakes Finland is known for. No neighbors too close, the Finns have always been good in social distancing. 

Ah, the serenity! 

There are dozens of festivals to choose from for the ones who want some entertainment and are not afraid of big crowds. Music, camping, fun, something for everyone. 

Also, Midsummer is the most popular time for weddings. 

Midsummer food:

Traditionally, Midsummer is about new potatoes, fresh vegetables, strawberries, grilling and BBQ. You may cook some ‘Hookoon Sininen’ sausage in a tinfoil on your sauna heater while beating your self with that birch whisk. Sweet fresh fish from the lake, smoked or grilled, eaten outside while the mosquitos feast on you, delicious!

 

Sauna

Sauna is a very important part of Finnish life and a main Juhannus tradition. Everyone has a sauna. Even in you live in a condo in a city you have one. Finns use a vasta, a whisk made of birch twigs to beat their bodies in sauna to stimulate the feel of löyly, the hot steam from the heater. Boy, that will make your blood circulate. After a good löyly that almost peeled the skin off your back, you will run, naked, into the lake and cool off. And then you’ll do it again! Fantastic!

All the good eats and hours of sauna will make the Finns thirsty. Finland has a fabulous selection of great tasting beers and ciders. And vodka. Unfortunate statistics tell that every year a few unlucky Finns drown in to a lake with their ‘fly open’. You may quess how that happens. :-)

Hauskaa Juhannusta - Happy Midsummer!

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Minna French

"Always at your reach and at your service!" Buying or selling your home is one of the biggest financial transactions in your lifetime. What is the best price you can get? How long does it take to get....

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