What is the biggest holiday in Finland? Christmass, Easter?…Nah.
Juhannus or Midsummer is the most anticipated holiday in Finland. It is very probable that you also celebrate Midsummer in your country or something similar to it. However, in Finland, the celebration goes way different from what you may expect. Officially Juhannus can be called Midsummer, Nightless Night, White Night, unofficially it is known as the Finnish Madness, the Sauna-And-Beer-Day or Cottage Party Day.
FINNISH MIDSUMMER: TRUTH OR FALSE. RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY OR BOOZE-UP?
TRUTH. Juhannus has pagan roots. This holiday goes back to the days when ancient Finns believed in the god Ukko, the god of weather, harvest, and fertility. Before Christianity came to Finland, the holiday was called Ukon juhla, and people lit huge kokko (bonfire) not only to warm up and dance around the fire but to honor Ukko and ask for the bountiful harvest. When the Christian came, the holiday was renamed to Juhannus in order to commemorate the birth of John the Baptist (called Johannes Kastaja in Finish). However, despite the advent of Christianity in Scandinavia, some pagan traditions remained.
FALSE. Nowadays it is mistaken to consider Juhannus a religious holiday. Although it can be considered as a mix of Christianity and ancient pagan traditions, in fact, this is the time when all the families and friends unite to celebrate, to escape from daily routine and simply enjoy the humble nordic summer.
TRUTH. Finns drink a lot on Midsummer. This is the period when beer and vodka flow infinitely. For many people, the synonym to the Juhannus is a combo of endless midsummer drinking and inevitable hangover. If you do not know how to drink, better do not experiment.
RURAL OR URBAN MIDSUMMER?
TO THE COUNTRYSIDE!
On Juhannus most of the locals head to their cottages by a lake. They change the hustle and bustle of the city for nature, barbecue, drinking and chatting with dear people. Locals usually invite their relatives and friends to go to their summer cottage. If you are not that lucky person, but you still want to celebrate Juhannus the way Finns do it, there is another option. To avoid staying in the ghost town, you may rent the cottage, there are plenty of them. But to be honest, a weekend in the Finnish summer cottage might cost you an arm and a leg. That is definitely not an option for a solo traveler. Obviously, if to rent a cottage, it is better to do it with friends, and way in advance.
If the luck is on your side and you are about to celebrate Juhannus in the countryside, here is a short list of things to do. The first thing you should experience is Finnish sauna. Sauna is a substantial part of Finnish culture and Juhannus festivities. Usually, cottages have traditional saunas where you follow the standard process: warming up the sauna, relaxing and socializing with a couple of drinks or more, whipping yourself with ‘vihta’ (a bundle of fresh birch twigs) and skinny dipping in the nearby waters.
Besides melting in the sauna, you may look around and explore the abundance of nature around you. Picking berries, going boating and fishing are very common midsummer activities in the countryside.
And of course, Juhannus is impossible without making a bonfire. Bonfires served to protect people and domestic animals from evil powers, bad fortune and to enhance the harvest and fertility. The tradition remained, but despite the beliefs of ancestors in the energy of magic of bonfires, nowadays the main reason why people lit the bonfires is simply to sit around the fire, tell stories, sing songs and cook sausages or fish you have just caught.
NON-COUNTRYSIDE WAY OF CELEBRATING MIDSUMMER
Spending Juhannus in the cottage near the lake is definitely a very Finish way of celebrating Juhannus. But if you do not want to splurge on a lovely cottage, you may go to a small island with an open-air museum, called Seurasaari, which is just five kilometers from downtown Helsinki. First of all, it is a cheaper option for both children and adults to enjoy the Nightless Night. Children under the age of 15 can enter the celebration free of charge, as for adults, the ticket will cost about € 20-30 (note, that to rent the cottage on the weekend will cost € 300+).
In Seurasaari you will experience a traditional midsummer event in the cozy and relaxed atmosphere of rural buildings, farmsteads, and cottages. There as well as in the countryside you will have an opportunity to gain a few kilos with the help of pancakes, hot potatoes, smoked fish, grilled meat, and beer. However, you may easily get rid of that recently gained weight by dancing with locals to the lively folk music. The highlight of the event is the charming Midsummer wedding in the old church of Seurasaari. The wedding waltz of the newlywed couple is probably the most romantic part of the celebration. The apogee of the Juhannus is lighting up a giant bonfire, which makes people start dancing with renewed vigor.
Another way to celebrate the Juhannus for those who are not interested in relaxing in the mosquito-infested area is going to one of the numerous parties and music festivals. Tantalising Music Festivals for every taste and pocket are held during and after Midsummer. Some of the music festivals you would like to visit are the Gergiev Festival Mikkeli, Music in Ruovesi or the Haapavesi Folk Music Festival. The most popular one remains being the midsummer festival Kalajoen Juhannus that gathers thousands of people to welcome summer in a huge party with various genres of music, from techno, pop to classic Finnish rock.
ONLY FOR WOMEN. MIDSUMMER MAGIC TRICKS
Midsummer is considered to be a time for magic tricks and rituals. Even nowadays it is popular among young girls to do some tasks and tricks on Midsummer Eve to meet or at least to find out something about their love. One of the far-reaching traditions is bending naked over the well in order to see the reflection of your future husband. Also, it is said that if the girl rolls around naked on a dewy field, she will meet her true love very soon.
But you may avoid these nudity rituals and try something more simple and safe. It is common among young ladies to pick seven or nine different flowers and then put them under that pillow with the hope to see their betrothed and beloved in a dream. Another method to see the future husband in a dream is to eat salty food before sleep. The girl is supposed to get thirsty and the one who brings her water in a dream is her future husband.
There are some other tricks, but they do not guarantee the reliable information, and definitely, no magic in the world will attract somebody you like. We are all people, so naive and vulnerable sometimes, nevertheless, let’s do not rely much on the so-called “midsummer magic”.
WELL PLANED IS HALF DONE
1. Find some time for small, yet necessary preparations for your trip to Finland on Midsummer. First of all, decide which kind of Juhannus celebration you like more, partying at the music festival or relaxing in the cottage with a lakeside sauna.
2. Whether you go to the countryside or stay in Helsinki, make sure to find the accommodation beforehand. That will help you to avoid stress, headache, and fully enjoy Juhannus instead.
3. As far as Juhannus is the national holiday, many shops and some small pharmacies will be closed. Therefore, do not forget to check out the schedule of the local shops and pharmacies, and buy everything you need beforehand as well. Also, in order to get successfully to your midsummer destination, it is important to check the schedule of buses and trains. Agree, that it would be extremely frustrating to stay in Helsinki when your friends are waiting for you with beer and food, but you have missed your bus due to your laziness to check the schedule of public transport in advance.
4. Of course, Juhannus as any holiday will be not a holiday without a plenty of alcohol. However, too much alcohol and calm lakes of Finland may play a bad trick on you. Annually several instances of drowning on Midsummer are reported, which should motivate you to find a balance between fun and drinking yourself to death literally.
5. The weather in Finland is unpredictable. If it is summer, it does not really mean hot and sunny in Finland. Though, Finns do not mind much and continue partying despite all the obstacles, because it is Juhannus, and it is a must to party! So, we wish you a good weather and only positive vibes. Onnea! Good Luck!
In 2018 Juhannus takes place on the 23rd of June. It is high time to pack your luggage and off to Finland!
Hyvää Juhannusta! Happy Midsummer!