There's this weekend when cities in Finland become isolated. Ever wonder where all the Finns go? Well...
Juhannus or midsummer is the celebration of the summer solstice (between the 20th and 26th of June). It's a national holiday in Finland and because Finns look forward to the most awaited summer, it's no wonder why it occupies a special place in the calendar. Juhannus, the Finnish name for Saint John, is a feast of new life in nature, signifying the celebration of light and leaving the darkness behind. This event officially starts the summer season, where everyone enjoys the long days and white nights of Nordic summer. Some spend Juhannus in the cities, but most people celebrate it with family and friends in their summer cottages in suburbs, usually near forests and lakes. The solitude and relaxing atmosphere these places bring make it ideal for relaxing or partying. The most typical Juhannus celebrations include making the bonfires (kokko), and going to sauna, while younger people would have lots of fun in open air dances in traditional folk music and other songs.
Juhannus celebrates the arrival of summer. Activities such as making bonfires and watching them burn while everyone sing, dance, and play games together is one way to gather people and have a great feast together. This tradition is held throughout Finland. In Helsinki, it is situated at the open air museum of Seurasaari every year. This island is a wonderful place for celebration and making a huge bonfire. The museum boasts of its charming historical buildings, cottages, and farm houses which have been collected around Finland. An authentic and genuine Juhannus wedding could be included in the festivity program to make it even more special and joyful for people who gather in the island.
Decorating houses with the greens of nature is for sure another beautiful custom to celebrate the arrival of summer and Juhannus. The early summer with its fresh green vegetation makes a nice effect in the decorations which people create during the Finnish Juhannus festivity. The old tradition is to cut and use young leaves of trees such as birch or aspen to use in decorating the house and the yard by putting the cut pieces of the tree standing at the sides, gates or stairs of the entrance, and leafy branches to decorate the windows. Another nice tradition which also holds mostly in summer cottages of countryside is to place the perfumed flowers in vases during Juhannus festivity; flowers such as valley lilies, bird cherry and lilac, or branches of mountain ash with its blossoms. Fresh and small branches of the birch tree are also picked and tied together to create a special switch and used in sauna bathing for hitting and slapping oneself.
Midnight sun, nightless night
Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Juhannus celebration, especially for tourists and foreigners, is simply the ''magic'' that the nightless nights of the whole midsummer festivity period brings- when the sun does not set below the horizon for several weeks. People could stay up at nights longer, hardly realizing the turning point that the day has come to end. They can have a light swim in warm water in full brightness of the night. These things hold special and are treasured experiences most people have probably not tried before in their home countries. There are also lots of old traditions related to the ''magic'' night of Juhannus holiday. This night is also known for picking up herbs and medical plants because of their healing powers. It's when strange things happen; witches, fairies, and elves come to wander around, and tease people by predicting their future. Many rites are connected with fortune, happiness, love, relationships and marriage. All these customs and traditions tell us that the Juhannus festivity truly runs deep and holds strongly in Finland's culture.
Nowadays, people also celebrate the arrival of light and summer not only by being in cottages and in nature, but also by enjoying numerous events, parties, and festivals going on all over Finland.
Start of Finnish summer holiday
The winter moves further away and gives way to the beautiful Finnish summer and a more refreshing atmosphere. During midsummer, many people start their summer holidays, normally lasting for three or four weeks. Most Finns like to escape the busy life of cities and spend summer time in the peaceful countryside, enjoying outdoors in nature, chopping firewood, swimming in lakes, boating or sailing, participating to the art and music festivals or other cultural events which are kept all throughout the country. Cities get empty, leaving that mysterious effect of ghosts and lonely streets. Hence some would take advantage of this and would rather spend the week in the city to enjoy its unusual peace and quiet.
Start of Finnish summer delicacies
Midsummer opens the season for the absolute beauty of the rainbow that colorful vegetables, fruits, and berries bring. These are all abundantly available and sold at various farm stores and market squares of every city, big or small. The variety of fresh and local Finnish products is very large: delicious sweet green peas, new potatoes, onions with green leaves, red and juicy tomatoes, tasty carrots, cauliflowers, variety of garden cucumbers, radishes and other roots, crunchy lettuce and cabbages, aromatic fresh dill and parsley, plus the different variety of flavorful berries which have been grown in long Finnish summer days.