Before 1316, the summer solstice was called Ukon juhla, after the Finnish god Ukko. In Karelian tradition, many bonfires were burned side by side, the biggest of which was called Ukko-kokko (the “bonfire of Ukko”). After the celebrations were Christianized, the holiday became known as juhannus after John the Baptist (Finnish: Johannes Kastaja).
Since 1955, the holiday has always been on a Saturday (between June 20 and June 26). Earlier it was always on June 24. Many of the celebrations of midsummer take place on midsummer eve, when many workplaces are closed and shops must close their doors at noon.
In the Finnish midsummer celebration, bonfires (Finnish kokko) are very common and are burnt at lakesides and by the sea. Often two young birch trees (koivu) are placed on either side of the front door to welcome visitors. Swedish-speaking Finns often celebrate by erecting a midsummer or maypole (Swedishmidsommarstång, majstång).
In folk magic, midsummer was a very potent night and the time for many small rituals, mostly for young maidens seeking suitors and fertility. Will-o’-the-wispswere believed to appear at midsummer night, particularly to finders of the mythical “fern in bloom” and possessors of the “fern seed”, marking a treasure. An important feature of the midsummer in Finland is the white night and the midnight sun. Because of Finland’s location spanning around the Arctic Circle the nights near the midsummer day are short or non-existent. This gives a great contrast to the darkness of the winter time. The temperature can vary between 0 °C and +30 °C, with an average of about 20 °C in the South.
Many Finns leave the cities for Midsummer and spend time in the countryside. Nowadays many spend a few days there, and some Finns (who do not travel abroad) take their whole vacation in a cottage. Rituals include bonfires, cookouts, a sauna and spending time together. Heavy drinking is also associated with the Finnish midsummer.
Many music festivals of all sizes are organized on the Midsummer weekend. It is also common to start summer holidays on Midsummer day. For many families the Midsummer is the time when they move to the countryside to their summer cottage by the sea or lake. Midsummer is also a Finnish Flag Day where the flag is hoisted at 6 pm on Midsummer’s Eve and flown all night till 9 pm the following evening. Finnish Canandians in the New Finland district, Saskatchewan, Canada celebrate Juhannus.
“In the Finnish midsummer celebration, bonfires (Finnish kokko) are very common and are burnt at lakesides and by the sea. Often two young birch trees (koivu) are placed on either side of the front door to welcome visitors. Swedish-speaking Finns often celebrate by erecting a midsummer or …
Midsummers Bonfire, Finland.
Arja Saijonmaa: ‘Laulu Suomen kesästä’ (1971)
"A song about Finnish summer", off Jörn Donner’s film Perkele! Kuvia Suomesta.
Juhannus (Midsummer festivities) in Finland and the rest of Scandinavia this weekend.