Are You Curious About Midsummer Magic in Finland?

Midsummer is a precious time of the year for people living in Scandinavia. Each Nordic country has its own midsummer traditions and activities that derive from its ancient culture and feasts. The Midsummer Festival around June 24th represents the greatest summer celebration in Finland. It is called Juhannus and that is the time when you can see the Finnish flag hoisted from 6.00pm on Midsummer Eve until 9.00pm the following evening. This highlights the period of ”White Nights” when there is no darkness at nights. The night never goes much past twilight during these polar days. In northern Lapland, the sun does not set below the horizon for several weeks. Juhannus also denotes the start of much desired 4 week summer holidays for many Finns. It is the time to relax and enjoy the magic of Finnish nature and “the Nightless Nights.”

History

Celebrating Juhannus throughout the country originates from John the Baptist (named Johannes in Finnish) whose commemoration and birthday is celebrated in Midsummer. Before the 1300’s, the summer solstice was celebrated as the feast of Ukko, the pagan Finnish god of weather, fertility, and growth. Many traditions from the past are followed still today. A very popular tradition is to “go back to the nature” and celebrate Juhannus at a summer cottage with family and friends. This entails heating up the sauna, swimming, boating, and having barbecued food. Finnish people also traditionally want to build a huge bonfire (kokko in Finnish) by a lake or the sea where they get together to enjoy the ceremony of lighting the bonfire close to midnight. The ancient Finns believed bonfires to dispel evil spirits and bad fortune or to enhance the fertility of domestic animals, crops, and people.

Traditional Rites

Many other magic and supernatural features denote traditional Midsummer Eve, the shortest night of the year, giving cause to various superstitious beliefs. According to an old belief, midsummer night tempted witches, fairies, and elves to tease people or to show them their future. By performing magical rites ancient Finns believed they could secure a better future for themselves, ensure a good fortune for the household, and protect their livestock from illnesses. Juhannus is also a romantic day that has inspired Finns to seek the love of their life. Especially young maidens seeking suitors and fertility used to perform small rituals at midsummer night. One popular ritual among young girls was to pick flowers and to place them under their pillows in the hope to see their future husbands in their dreams. Others believed that by rolling around naked on a dewy field they would ensure to meet their fiancé during the passing year. Probably due to these old traditions and beliefs, midsummer is the most popular time of the year for weddings in Finland.

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