Midsummer in Finland
Midsummer, known as "Juhannus" in Finnish, is a significant event in Finland, marking the celebration of the summer solstice. It is a time when the sun hardly sets, and the days are long and full of light. The Finns cherish this time of the year, as it represents the height of summer and the reversal of the long, dark winter months.
Midsummer in Finland usually falls on the weekend closest to June 24th. The specific date changes every year, but it is always celebrated between June 20th and 26th, with the festivities taking place on both Friday and Saturday.
The celebration of Midsummer in Finland has its roots in pre-Christian traditions. It was initially a pagan festival celebrating the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and the fertility of nature. With the Christianization of Finland in the Middle Ages, the event was associated with the feast day of St. John the Baptist, hence the name "Juhannus."
National customs for Midsummer in Finland
Midsummer in Finland is a time for relaxation and spending time with friends and family, often at summer cottages by lakes or the sea. Many Finns leave the cities and head to the countryside to enjoy the serenity and beauty of nature.
One of the most important customs during Juhannus is lighting a bonfire, known as "kokko" in Finnish. These bonfires symbolize the light and warmth of the sun, and they are believed to ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune. The bonfires are typically lit on Midsummer's Eve, and people gather around them to sing, dance, and socialize.
Another popular tradition during Midsummer is the raising of the Midsummer pole, which is decorated with flowers, leaves, and ribbons. This custom is more common in the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland, as it has its origins in the Swedish tradition of "midsommarstång."
Saunas also play a significant role in Finnish Midsummer celebrations. It is customary to heat the sauna and take a relaxing bath before the festivities begin. Birch branches, known as "vihta" or "vasta," are used for gentle self-flagellation in the sauna, which is believed to improve blood circulation and cleanse the body and mind.
Local customs for Midsummer in Finland
Midsummer customs in Finland can vary from one region to another. In some areas, people dress up in traditional Finnish clothing and participate in folk dances and games. There are also local competitions, such as the "wife-carrying" race in the town of Sonkajärvi, where men carry their wives or female partners through an obstacle course.
In coastal areas and the archipelago, people often decorate their boats with flowers and greenery, and organize boat parades to celebrate Midsummer. In the Åland Islands, there is a tradition of lighting a chain of bonfires along the coast, creating an impressive display of light and unity.
Midsummer in Finland is a cherished celebration that allows people to come together and enjoy the long-awaited warmth and light of the summer season. Through a blend of ancient traditions and modern customs, the Finns express their appreciation for nature and the unique beauty of their country. Whether it be through bonfires, sauna rituals, or local festivities, Midsummer in Finland is a time for joy, relaxation, and connection with loved ones.